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25951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 04, 2008, 06:39:28 AM
Second post of the AM on BO-- here some pro BO Dems say why they are for him:
25952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Venezuela on: February 04, 2008, 06:30:01 AM
Desperado
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
February 4, 2008; Page A14

In 1981, Argentine inflation topped 130%, and by the early months of 1982 the situation was rapidly deteriorating. A web of price controls designed to compensate for monetary mischief at the central bank only made things worse. Confidence had collapsed and civil unrest was growing.

The military government's decision to lay claim to Britain's South Georgia Island on March 19, 1982, and later the Falklands, was dictator Leopoldo Galtieri's last-ditch effort to boost the nation's sense of strength, and to distract it from the reality that it was caught in an economic maelstrom.

 
Fast forward to 2008 and Venezuela, where the parallels cannot be ignored. The military government of President Hugo Chávez is engaging in provocations against a foreign power that would seem to have little purpose other than getting news of the crumbling economy off the front pages and ginning up nationalism.

In a speech before the national assembly last month, Mr. Chávez dropped a bombshell, proclaiming that Venezuela now recognizes the Colombian rebel group known as the FARC as a legitimate political actor. He went on to ask that European and South American governments remove the group from their terrorist lists. A day earlier his special envoy for FARC relations went public with his own fondness for the Colombian rebels, and with the news that the Venezuelan government stands ready to help them.

This was more than Mr. Chávez playing footsie with the FARC, which he has long been doing. This was a statement of official support for a band of outlaws who seek the destruction of the Colombian democracy. The news shook both nations. It suggested that Colombia is not only at war with the rebels, but also with a neighboring state.

Mr. Chávez probably doesn't really want war with the militarily superior Colombia anymore than Galtieri wanted to battle it out with Britain. But by poking his neighbor in the eye, he was undoubtedly hoping for some kind of a reaction, to which Venezuela naturally would be obliged to respond. Amid an escalation of tensions between the two countries, a nationalist outcry to defend Venezuelan honor might dwarf the many troubles at home.

Colombia's president didn't take the bait. Instead of getting in a spitting match with Venezuela, Álavaro Uribe went to Europe shortly after Mr. Chávez's FARC speech to shore up support for his anti-terrorist agenda. He came home with backing from E.U. foreign policy chief Javier Solana, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, who is notorious for his admiration of Latin American leftists. Mr. Chávez thus suffered yet another humiliation, only six weeks after he lost his bid to rewrite the country's constitution.

Hubris aside, Mr. Chávez had to know that his defense of the FARC was a long shot. But desperate times call for desperate measures. As the deterioration of the Venezuelan economy accelerates, Mr. Chávez is fast becoming a desperado with no better idea of how to get out of his jam than did Galtieri.

Central to his troubling circumstances is inflation. With Venezuelan crude oil around $80 per barrel, the local currency known as the bolivar ought to be strong. But the central bank has lost its independence and now acts as an arm of the Chávez government. As such it has shown little interest in defending the value of the currency.

Instead, it uses the gusher of oil dollars coming into the country as a reason to print up new bolivars to be put into circulation through government spending. This has pushed up demand and sent prices skyrocketing.

Just what Venezuelan inflation is now is anybody's guess. The government figure for 2007 is 22.5% but that number is derived from a basket of goods that includes price-controlled items, which are difficult to actually buy. In real life, when Venezuelans go shopping they have to pay market prices if they want to come home with the goods. This means that the cost of living is higher than the official rate.

Price controls haven't held down inflation but they have produced shortages of the goods they cover. Milk, rice, cooking oil, chicken, beef, pork, sugar, black beans and eggs are all hard to find and Venezuelans say that grocery shopping now requires stops at five or six stores. The most reliable sources of price-controlled items are street vendors, who charge two and three times the legal limit but tend to have stock.

Even Mr. Chávez recognizes that the shortages are real and not about to go away. And despite what appears to be a primitive understanding of economics, he may even have figured out the connection between prices and supply. This would explain why, as dire milk shortages became undeniable in recent months, he finally decreed an increase in the regulated price.

But don't hold your breath for further signs of enlightenment. Control of the oil industry has been the main reason Mr. Chávez has been able to squelch democracy. His own warped logic suggests that he needs to control other key sectors if he wants to keep his grip on power. If he can strangle the private sector, he can starve his adversaries.

This is why he is promoting government-owned food processors and has put a full-court press on private-sector agribusiness. Price controls now apply not only to the retail market but also to business transactions. This is designed to stop, for example, dairy farms from diverting raw milk to the production of cheese and yogurt, which have no price controls. Anyone caught violating price controls or selling products across the border in Colombia risks expropriation.

All of this is being policed by the army. With its monopoly on the use of force, the government can indeed destroy the private sector. But as Galtieri found out, it cannot decree that supply meets demand. As shortages become more acute, don't be surprised to see the Venezuelan desperado picking more fights.

WSJ
25953  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Color of Charity on: February 04, 2008, 06:26:03 AM
The Color of Charity
February 4, 2008; Page A14
Just when we thought we'd heard everything from the diversity police, here they come trying to prescribe even the color of charity. The California Assembly last week passed a bill sponsored by state Representative Joe Coto to require foundations with assets of more than $250 million to disclose the race, gender and sexual orientation of their trustees, staff, and even grantees. Look for this to arrive in a legislature near you.

A Berkeley-based advocacy group called the Greenlining Institute hatched this idea because, allegedly, racial minorities aren't well enough represented in California policy debates. John Gamboa, Greenlining's executive director, blames foundations for failing to donate enough money to "minority-led" think tanks and community groups and businesses, and he hopes this legislation will "shame" them into giving more. What counts as a minority-led organization? According to Greenlining, the board and staff should both be more than 50% minority.

This certainly takes the spoils system of racial preferences to a whole new level. Heretofore the government has tried to enforce a pigmentation principle in government jobs and contracts, and in private employment through the threat of lawsuits. But this is about telling private citizens how to give their own money away.

Mr. Gamboa says these philanthropies have tax-exempt status, so the public has a right to this information. "Minorities are paying a little more in taxes but are not receiving their fair share of benefits," he says. This seems an odd claim, since so much private charity is targeted explicitly at minorities. But it makes sense once you understand that what he means is that not enough of this cash is channelled through certain minority-run activist groups, such as, well, his own. It's no accident that such ethnic lobbies as the Black Business Association and the Centro Legal de la Raza also love this idea.

There's also the little problem of accountability and donor intent. Private citizens typically establish foundations with specific charitable goals in mind -- such as wetlands conservation, or medical research, or even promoting free market ideas. If donors are suddenly supposed to allocate grants by the color or sexual lifestyle of the grantee, that donor intent will be distorted at the very least. Presumably we want money for cancer research to support the most promising research ideas, not to be based on whether the labs have a rainbow coalition of Ph.Ds. The goal is to cure cancer.

Paul Brest is a former NAACP attorney and president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, California's largest foundation. And in a letter to the state Assembly on Mr. Coto's proposal, he put it this way: "[Our] fundamental operating principle is to direct our resources to organizations that have the promise of making the greatest difference in achieving [our philanthropic] goals. Thus, we do not focus on the racial composition of our grantees, but rather on how to achieve measurable impact in improving the lives of the communities that our grant recipients serve."

Lest you think this idea is too wacky to go anywhere, it is also expected to pass the California Senate and could soon land on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. The Greenlining staff is already lobbying House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel for Congressional hearings. Foundations and charities that don't want to start apportioning their donations by skin color, or between gays and heterosexuals, had better start describing this idea as the political shakedown it is.

WSJ
25954  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: February 04, 2008, 06:22:48 AM
Equity and Health Care
February 4, 2008; Page A14
Democrats, and even a few Republicans, are in a populist mood, and fair enough. But if they really want the tax code to be more "progressive" -- i.e., from each according to his means -- they ought to forget the Bush tax cuts and address the way the government subsidizes health insurance. On the advice of our doctors, we're not holding our breath.

According to the Democratic consensus, too many people lack health insurance, and the liberal remedy is to protect the status quo while expanding public programs for the uninsured. That's the opposite of a rational health policy: Not only does the current system cause unnecessary problems for the insured, but many of the gaps in coverage owe to the way tax subsidies shortchange the uninsured, particularly working-class and middle-income families.

If such inequality and unfairness existed anywhere other than health care, the Democrats would be raising hell. Instead, they're silent -- which is politically telling.

The core problem is that people who get insurance through their employers pay no income or payroll taxes on the value of the benefit. The Treasury defines this as a "tax expenditure," meaning it's revenue the government forgoes to encourage certain behavior. If these losses were converted to the equivalent of direct spending, the tax exemption would have cost more than $208 billion in 2006. The only federal programs that cost more are Social Security, Medicare and national defense. But all that money props up only employer-provided insurance. Individuals who buy policies don't get any tax breaks and pay with after-tax dollars.

If the purpose of health-care reform is to decrease the ranks of the uninsured, these job-related tax breaks are poorly targeted, even regressive. The more generous the employer health plan, the more the subsidies increase. On average, lower-wage workers have more limited coverage as part of their compensation, usually from small- or medium-sized businesses. Estimates show that the subsidy is worth more than $3,000 for upper-income families (with higher marginal tax rates), and less than $1,000 for those on the lower income rungs.

These aren't new insights, and economists have recommended changing these incentives for decades. What's hard to believe are the convenient blind spots of the Democratic Presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton, queen of the wonks, includes in her health-care proposal an undefined cap on the deduction for "high-income Americans," but all of her emphasis is on larger spending subsidies. Barack Obama doesn't even mention it. Neither did John Edwards.

They're uncharacteristically missing a chance to effectively raise taxes on "the rich." Curbing these subsidies could generate billions for their elaborate "universal" health programs. More to the point, this is a simple matter of equity, usually Democratic terrain. If the government is going to support health insurance, then those subsidies ought to apply regardless of a person's income, where they work, or how they purchase their insurance.

So why the Democratic silence? Perhaps it's because they think such a change would interfere with their main policy goal, which is slow but steady progress toward government control of the health-care market. Or possibly it's because many of the most generous tax-subsidized health plans come from union-negotiated contracts. Or maybe Democrats simply don't want to concede that President Bush has a point.

In his 2007 State of the Union address, Mr. Bush suggested redistributing the government's health subsidies. His proposal would sever the link between insurance and employment, shifting the deduction to individuals and capping it at $15,000 a year for a typical family. About four-fifths of the country would do better than they do now, while the rest currently have the most gold-plated employer coverage and would still have plenty of options.

Not only would this be a relatively cost-effective way to increase coverage. It would also address the major market distortions that the employer-exclusive deduction causes, with individuals essentially prepaying for routine costs through third-party insurance companies. If Republican candidates came to their senses, they'd recognize an opportunity to poach a traditionally Democratic issue -- as well as an opening to address middle-class anxiety without demagoguing business or "the rich." Individual policies would also be portable when workers are between jobs, reducing risk and uncertainty.

But the big questions are for the Democrats, who claim to believe that health-care reform is as much a moral as an economic issue. Whatever their other ambitions, how can they stand by a system that offers the least assistance to the working class and nothing at all to the uninsured?

WSJ
25955  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO on: February 04, 2008, 06:15:35 AM
Sorry, I don't have a URL for this, but it seems legit.


When residents in Illinois voiced outrage two years ago upon learning that the Exelon Corporation had not disclosed radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants, the state’s freshman senator, Barack Obama, took up their cause.


John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon and also of the Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group, has been an Obama donor.


Mr. Obama scolded Exelon and federal regulators for inaction and introduced a bill to require all plant owners to notify state and local authorities immediately of even small leaks. He has boasted of it on the campaign trail, telling a crowd in Iowa in December that it was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed.”

“I just did that last year,” he said, to murmurs of approval.

A close look at the path his legislation took tells a very different story. While he initially fought to advance his bill, even holding up a presidential nomination to try to force a hearing on it, Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.

Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama’s comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.

“Senator Obama’s staff was sending us copies of the bill to review, and we could see it weakening with each successive draft,” said Joe Cosgrove, a park district director in Will County, Ill., where low-level radioactive runoff had turned up in groundwater. “The teeth were just taken out of it.”

The history of the bill shows Mr. Obama navigating a home-state controversy that pitted two important constituencies against each other and tested his skills as a legislative infighter. On one side were neighbors of several nuclear plants upset that low-level radioactive leaks had gone unreported for years; on the other was Exelon, the country’s largest nuclear plant operator and one of Mr. Obama’s largest sources of campaign money.

Since 2003, executives and employees of Exelon, which is based in Illinois, have contributed at least $227,000 to Mr. Obama’s campaigns for the United States Senate and for president. Two top Exelon officials, Frank M. Clark, executive vice president, and John W. Rogers Jr., a director, are among his largest fund-raisers.

Another Obama donor, John W. Rowe, chairman of Exelon, is also chairman of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry’s lobbying group, based in Washington. Exelon’s support for Mr. Obama far exceeds its support for any other presidential candidate.

In addition, Mr. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has worked as a consultant to Exelon. A spokeswoman for Exelon said Mr. Axelrod’s company had helped an Exelon subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, with communications strategy periodically since 2002, but had no involvement in the leak controversy or other nuclear issues.

The Obama campaign said in written responses to questions that Mr. Obama “never discussed this issue or this bill” with Mr. Axelrod. The campaign acknowledged that Exelon executives had met with Mr. Obama’s staff about the bill, as had concerned residents, environmentalists and regulators. It said the revisions resulted not from any influence by Exelon, but as a necessary response to a legislative roadblock put up by Republicans, who controlled the Senate at the time.

“If Senator Obama had listened to industry demands, he wouldn’t have repeatedly criticized Exelon in the press, introduced the bill and then fought for months to get action on it,” the campaign said. “Since he has over a decade of legislative experience, Senator Obama knows that it’s very difficult to pass a perfect bill.”

Asked why Mr. Obama had cited it as an accomplishment while campaigning for president, the campaign noted that after the senator introduced his bill, nuclear plants started making such reports on a voluntary basis. The campaign did not directly address the question of why Mr. Obama had told Iowa voters that the legislation had passed.

Nuclear safety advocates are divided on whether Mr. Obama’s efforts yielded any lasting benefits. David A. Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists agreed that “it took the introduction of the bill in the first place to get a reaction from the industry.”

“But of course because it is all voluntary,” Mr. Lochbaum said, “who’s to say where things will be a few years from now?”

Page 2 of 2)


Others say that turning the whole matter over to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as Mr. Obama’s revised bill would have done, played into the hands of the nuclear power industry, which they say has little to fear from the regulators. Mr. Obama seemed to share those concerns when he told a New Hampshire newspaper last year that the commission “is a moribund agency that needs to be revamped and has become a captive of the industry it regulates.”

Paul Gunter, an activist based in Maryland who assisted neighbors of the Exelon plants, said he was “disappointed in Senator Obama’s lack of follow-through,” which he said weakened the original bill. “The new legislation falls short” by failing to provide for mandatory reporting, said Mr. Gunter, whose group, Beyond Nuclear, opposes nuclear energy.
The episode that prompted Mr. Obama’s legislation began on Dec. 1, 2005, when Exelon issued a news release saying it had discovered tritium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear power, in monitoring wells at its Braidwood plant, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago. A few days later, tritium was detected in a drinking water well at a home near the plant, although the levels did not exceed federal safety standards.

At least as disturbing for local residents was the revelation that Exelon believed the tritium came from millions of gallons of water that had leaked from the plant years earlier but went unreported at the time. Under nuclear commission rules, plants are required to tell state and local authorities only about radioactive discharges that rise to the level of an emergency.

On March 1, Mr. Obama introduced a bill known as the Nuclear Release Notice Act of 2006. It stated flatly that nuclear plants “shall immediately” notify federal, state and local officials of any accidental release of radioactive material that exceeded “allowable limits for normal operation.”

To flag systematic problems, it would also have required reporting of repeated accidental leaks that fell below those limits. Illinois’ senior senator, Richard J. Durbin, a fellow Democrat, was a co-sponsor, and three other senators, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, later signed on. But Mr. Obama remained its primary champion.

In public statements, Mr. Obama dismissed the nuclear lobby’s arguments that the tritium leaks posed no health threat.

“This legislation is not about whether tritium is safe, or at what concentration or level it poses a threat,” he said. “This legislation is about ensuring that nearby residents know whether they may have been exposed to any level of radiation generated at a nuclear power plant as a result of an unplanned, accidental or unintentional incident.”

Almost immediately, the nuclear power industry and federal regulators raised objections to the bill.

The Nuclear Energy Institute jumped out in front by announcing its voluntary initiative for plant operators to report even small leaks. An Exelon representative told an industry newsletter, Inside N.R.C., that Exelon was “working with Senator Obama’s office to address some technical issues that will allow us to support the legislation.”

Last week, an Exelon spokesman, Craig Nesbit, said the company sought, among other things, new language to specify what types of leaks should be reported, and assurance that enforcement authority remained with the nuclear commission and not state or local governments.

“We were looking for technical clarity,” Mr. Nesbit said.

Meanwhile, the nuclear commission told Mr. Obama’s staff that the bill would have forced the unnecessary disclosure of leaks that were not serious. “Unplanned releases below the level of an emergency present a substantially smaller risk to the public,” the agency said in a memorandum to senators, which ticked off about a half-dozen specific concerns about the bill.

Senate correspondence shows that the environment committee chairman at the time, Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma who is a strong supporter of industry in battles over energy and environmental legislation, agreed with many of those points and held up the bill. Mr. Obama pushed back, at one point temporarily blocking approval of President Bush’s nominee to the nuclear commission, Dale E. Klein, who met with Mr. Obama to discuss the leaks.

But eventually, Mr. Obama agreed to rewrite the bill, and when the environment committee approved it in September 2006, he and his co-sponsors hailed it as a victory.

In interviews over the past two weeks, Obama aides insisted that the revisions did not substantively alter the bill. In fact, it was left drastically different.

In place of the straightforward reporting requirements was new language giving the nuclear commission two years to come up with its own regulations. The bill said that the commission “shall consider” — not require — immediate public notification, and also take into account the findings of a task force it set up to study the tritium leaks.

By then, the task force had already concluded that “existing reporting requirements for abnormal spills and leaks are at a level that is risk-informed and appropriate.”

The rewritten bill also contained the new wording sought by Exelon making it clear that state and local authorities would have no regulatory oversight of nuclear power plants.

In interviews last week, representatives of Exelon and the nuclear commission said they were satisfied with the revised bill. The Nuclear Energy Institute said it no longer opposed it but wanted additional changes.

The revised bill was never taken up in the full Senate, where partisan parliamentary maneuvering resulted in a number of bills being shelved before the 2006 session ended.

Still, the legislation has come in handy on the campaign trail. Last May, in response to questions about his ties to Exelon, Mr. Obama wrote a letter to a Nevada newspaper citing the bill as evidence that he stands up to powerful interests.

“When I learned that radioactive tritium had leaked out of an Exelon nuclear plant in Illinois,” he wrote, “I led an effort in the Senate to require utilities to notify the public of any unplanned release of radioactive substances.”

Last October, Mr. Obama reintroduced the bill, in its rewritten form.
25956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 04, 2008, 05:37:19 AM
Here is his blog:

http://eutrapelia.blogspot.com/

25957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: February 04, 2008, 05:34:08 AM
"As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires
a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are
other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion
of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the
existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other
form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political
jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human
character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient
virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than
the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and
devouring one another."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 55, 15 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 55.
25958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO for movement towards unilateral disarmament on: February 03, 2008, 09:44:22 PM
Excerpt from article: http://www.icadp.org/page236.html from Chicago Tribune writer published in 2004:


"Obama, however, called for a host of new gun-control measures: strengthening the assault-weapons ban to include high-capacity clips made prior to 1994; holding parents criminally responsible for children who injure someone with a gun found in the home; placing trigger locks on all guns; and allowing gun buyers to purchase only one weapon per month.

Hynes advocated increasing penalties for crimes committed with a gun, and Hull would increase funding to update technology that provides instant background checks on gun buyers.

All of the candidates, except Hynes, said they opposed allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. Hynes and Chico said states, not the federal government, should regulate the matter.

"I consider this an issue for the states to decide, not the federal government," Chico said.

Obama disagreed. He backed federal legislation that would ban citizens from carrying weapons, except for law enforcement. He cited Texas as an example of a place where a law allowing people to carry weapons has "malfunctioned" because hundreds of people granted licenses had prior convictions.

"National legislation will prevent other states' flawed concealed-weapons laws from threatening the safety of Illinois residents," Obama said."
25959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 03, 2008, 09:23:36 PM
Second post on this.  The quality and accuracy of this source is unknown to me, but the subject matter seems important.
================

http://galliawatch.blogspot.com/2008/01/great-fear.html

Dalil Boubakeur's proposal to suspend the 1905 law separating Church and State has incensed the advocates of "laïcité" who see in his words a predictable maneuver, welcomed by the State and Churches alike, for the purpose of restoring the power of religion to all spheres of French life.

The following excerpts are taken from a long text posted at Riposte Laïque, a website of militants of "laïcité". Essentially, a coalition of left-leaning groups and individuals, they have the virtue of wanting to preserve intact the 1905 law separating Church and State. It isn't clear if they understand the true nature of Islam and its refusal of such a separation. What is clear is their intense hostility towards religion, and their firm belief that Nicolas Sarkozy intends, through modifications to the existing law, to impose his view of the equality of all religions onto the French people, instead of maintaining the strict separation that has been enforced until recently when Islam came into the picture.

(...) Why should Boubakeur have any qualms (about suspending the law)? Sarkozy, through his speeches in Rome and then in Ryadh rolled out the red carpet to the Churches, and someone had to go into the breach. This role fell to the freedom-destroying mufti of the Paris mosque, since Islam is the spear-head of this offensive.

(...) The ministers visit him (Boubakeur) during Ramadan, an obscurantist practice if ever there was one, to break the fast. They invite him to the television studios where, all the while claiming to favor "laïcité", he whimpers about discrimination towards Muslims. Sarkozy takes him along in his baggage when he goes to Algiers. There, Boubakeur listens enthralled to the French president who, in an incredible speech, denounces Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the same breath.

As thanks for these good and loyal favors, Boubakeur plays the game expected of him by the powers-that-be and the Churches: he demands the end of the law of 1905.

Note: They come close to saying that it is a conspiracy by the government and the religions - i.e. a pre-planned plot to pave the way for the abolition of the law.

Their fear, despite what they say about Islam, is of the return of Christianity, especially Catholicism, to the decision-making process of the government, as the following statements attest:

In Europe through Article 15-1 of the new Treaty of Lisbon, which replaces the former Article 1-52, they want to render unavoidable the consultation of the Catholic Church before any political policy is adopted.

Furthermore, in Europe, 20 countries out of 25 are signatories of concordats with the Catholic Church. Now they want all of France to be aligned with those countries.

Note: I cannot comment on the above. I have not read the Treaty, nor am I familiar with the concordats.

But Catholicism is not their only fear:

(...) The Turkish Islamists who still intend to enter Europe feel that the moment has come. They are trying to end the ban on the Islamic veil, instituted by Mustapha Kemal, at the University.

The Protestants, among whom the Evangelicals are today in the majority, are patiently waiting for the French State to "tinker" with the law of 1905 that forbids the construction of houses of worship, in order to benefit from these derogations.

Movements such as the Church of Scientology, Jehovah's Witnesses, Raelians, and others are eager for these revisions so that they may be recognized fully as religions, and take advantage of the subsidies, fiscal exemptions and other privileges which are today forbidden by Article 2 of this accursed law.

In short, the stage is set, the scenario is soon to be played out.

Note: I know nothing about Raelians. I doubt that they pose a threat comparable to Islam.

The article goes on to call for a massive protest, first at the local level, then a march towards Paris. Among the organizations cited as participants in this protest are the Grand Orient of France (Freemasons) and the Ligue de l'Enseignement (League of Teachers):

Today is not the time to be timorous with those who prepared the way for Sarkozy and the concept of "open laïcité." Nor must we be divided in our ranks, whatever divergences may exist,

(...) We are convinced that the potential for mobilization by the French people around the concept of "laïcité" is intact. The citizens of this country are much more attached to the separation of the religious from the political than the elite is willing to believe.

Note: Sarkozy has (knowingly?) opened a can of worms with his initiatives on religion. But the essential problem remains Islam. The advocates of "laïcité" seem to forget that there can be no separation of Church and State in Islam and that if Islam is going to be given privileges, it automatically means the end of the law of 1905. Sarkozy, the Great Egalitarian, is banking on the fallacious notion of "equality" of religions and is throwing all religions together in the same arena to find a way of co-existing. His specific plans to modify the 1905 law will be the topic of future posts.

The image is of Liberty Leading the People, a famous painting from 1830 by Eugène Delacroix.




Labels: Christianity, Dalil Boubakeur, Islam, Laïcité, Religion
25960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 03, 2008, 10:31:23 AM
Does anyone have any other info on the subject of this piece?  I'd like to have more than one source/one point of view on this:
=================

Can of Worms: Mufti Wants Moratorium on French Law Separating Church and State

From the desk of Tiberge on Fri, 2008-02-01 13:06
The mufti of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, has dropped what amounts to a political and religious bomb. He proposes a moratorium on the French law of 1905 separating Church and State, because not enough mosques are being built in France.
Besides his position as mufti, he is the president of the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), an association officially established in 2003 thanks to the efforts of Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy.

Questioned by Le Monde, Mr. Boubakeur set forth the idea of a “moratorium of 10 to 20 years” on the 1905 law, which forbids all public funding of places of worship, so that Islam can “catch up” on its needs. “The associations that administer houses of worship need to be given air to breathe,” he says.
This has to be one of the most daring statements made yet by a Muslim leader in France. There are at least 1500 mosques and prayer rooms in France, 75 in Paris alone.
Dalil Boubakeur’s proposal to suspend the 1905 law has incensed France’s radical secularists, the advocates of “laïcité,” who see in his words a predictable maneuver, welcomed by the State and Churches alike, for the purpose of restoring the power of religion to all spheres of French life.

Militants of “laïcité” are convinced that Nicolas Sarkozy intends, through modifications to the existing law, to impose his view of the equality of all religions onto the French people, instead of maintaining the strict separation that has been enforced until recently when Islam came into the picture.

The blog Riposte Laïque writes:
Sarkozy, through his speeches in Rome and then in Ryadh rolled out the red carpet to the Churches, and someone had to go into the breach. This role fell to the freedom-destroying mufti of the Paris mosque, since Islam is the spear-head of this offensive.

Their fear, despite what they say about Islam, is of the return of Christianity, especially Catholicism, to the decision-making process of the government, as the following statements attest:
Furthermore, in Europe, 20 countries out of 25 are signatories of concordats with the Catholic Church. Now they want all of France to be aligned with those countries.

Riposte Laïque calls for a massive protest, first at the local level, then a march towards Paris. Among the organizations cited as participants in this protest are the Grand Orient of France (Freemasons) and the Ligue de l'Enseignement (League of Teachers).

Sarkozy has (knowingly?) opened a can of worms with his initiatives on religion. But the essential problem remains Islam. The advocates of “laïcité” seem to forget that there can be no separation of Church and State in Islam and that if Islam is going to be given privileges, it automatically means the end of the law of 1905. Sarkozy is banking on the fallacious notion of “equality” of religions and is throwing all religions together in the same arena to find a way of co-existing.

http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/2927
25961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess on: February 02, 2008, 08:59:51 PM
Notation tutorial

http://www.chesscentral.com/novice/chess_notation.htm
25962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Quotes, quips, and sayings on: February 02, 2008, 07:45:21 PM
Woof All:

Kicking it off with some from a thread of this name on the DBMA Association forum.

Yip!
Crafty Dog
======================

 I'm tired of politicians peeing on me  then saying, it's just raining" P.C.
                 " Wakey wakey, eggs and bacey!" Bud, from the movie Kill Bill.

--------------------

"The fighter that is in condition can always beat the best fighter in the world that is out of condition" ~ Don F.

"Small stick, small stars. Big stick, big stars!" ~ GM Ramiro Estalilla (Kabaroan Arnis)

----------

"In our zest for rationality, we irrationally give greater weight to those variables we can identify, as opposed to those we cannot, which unfortunately represent the bulk."

Jack Crooks, currency exchange rate analyst

-----------

"Let us not hear of Generals who conquer without bloodshed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is a ground for paying more respect to War, but nor for making the sword we wear blunter and blunter by degrees from feelings of humanity, until some one steps in with one that is sharp and lops off the arm from our body" Carl Von Clausewitz

--------------

In regards to carrying weapons:

"Don't carrying anything that does not fit comfortably up your @$$"

(This one triggered some humorous banter on the DBMAA forum  cheesy )

------------

Famous Last Words:
         Let them eat cake!
         Woops!
         Sh@##@!
         Damn!
         I've almost got it.
         Honey, was that your wedding ring laying on the sink?
         Nobody will ever know.
         It's not loaded.
         Just one more for the road.
         I'm not sure about this.
         I'm a dead man.
         
-----------------------

 These are for Guro C., since he likes heady ones.
     "Blessed is the man that expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed."
                                                           Alexander Pope, (poet)

     "A good knock on the head with a tobacco stick will scatter their chickens!"
                                   James Crawford, (a farmer and my grandfather)

-----------------------

All of this could have been avoided if your mother didn't fuck your father.

-----------------------


The best part of you ran down your mama's leg.

I'll be on you like flies on garbage.

Don't run you will only die tired. (sniper quote)

The only easy day was yesterday.

I'll hit you with so many rights, you will beg for a left.

Walk as a warrior not as a worrier.

--------------------

" At present, in many of the martial arts,... there is too much concern about appearance, and not much substance. That kind of martial art is useless in critical moments. "
                                              Miyamoto Musashi, 1645
  I guess finding a reality based martial art isn't a new problem.

---------------------

From Terry Dobson's "It's A Lot Like Dancing":

"The secret of focus is virtuous intention. Nothing else. Any fool can concentrate; the real life, and deathness, comes in why you are focusing. If you set out to hurt, you will be cut down. If you set out with virtuous intention, you will go right through the opponent."

-------------------

"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."
Winston Churchill 

----------------

 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
                                    Theodore Roosevelt  1910

----------------------

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
                            Albert Einstein

-------------------

"A fear of weapons is a sign of retarded sexual and emotional maturity." -- Sigmund Freud, General Introduction to Psychoanlysis (1952).

------------------


Men are not worried by things, but by their ideas about things. - Epictetus

-----------

It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Emiliano Zapata
----------------------

"I work in a prison. I see Evil every day. My last prison was a lockdown supermax, where Evil was naked and violent, right out in front. Now I work in a sex offender yard, where Evil wears a polite face, and warm smile.....
And people wonder why I carry a gun. Evil gets out on parole next Tuesday..."

A State Corrections Officer answering the question on another forum, "Does evil exist?"

-------------------

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
                                    Helen Keller
------------------

" The problem with modern culture is that a man can live his entire lifetime without ever knowing if he is or isn't a coward." unknown

---------------

"Whoso would be a man, must be a non conformist." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"When you doubt yourself, it is like joining your enemy's army." - Alexandre Dumas

"To become strong, one must first need to become strong." - Friedrich Nietzsche

"Evolution does not happen unless there is conflict that spurs change in order to compete.  Continually go without challenging yourself and one day you'll wake up to find yourself extinct." - Anonymous

-------------------

 My grandfather taught me how to hunt when I was very young. On my first bear hunt I told him I was afraid the bear might catch us. He told me not to worry about out running the bear. He said "All you need to do is out run me". This didn't calm my fear.

--------------------

"A man is a man only when he can be himself wherever he is."

-Coralie in House of D 

--------------------

 "When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber."

                                       Winston Churchill

-----------------------

Be it remembered that liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.
  Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people who have a right from the frame of their nature to knowledge, as their great Creator who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings and a desire to know of the characters and conduct or their rulers.
 The point is now determined, I shall have the liberty to think for myself. Government is a plain, simple, intelligent thing, founded in nature and in reason, quite comprehensible by common sense. The true source of our suffering has been timidity. We have been afraid to think. Let us dare to read, think , speak, write. Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes or parliaments, that many of our rights are inherent and essential, agreed on as maxims and established as preliminaries, even before Parliament existed.
  Recollect the civil and religious principles and hopes and expectations which constantly supported and carried our more immediate forefathers, in exchanging their native country for a dreary, inhospitable wilderness.
  The preservation of liberty depends upon the intellectual and moral character of the people. As long as knowledge and virtue are diffused generally among the body of a nation, it is impossible they should be enslaved.
                                         John Adams 1765

------------------

"Out of every One Hundered men, Ten should not be here, Eighty are nothing but targets, Nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they the battle make."

"Ah, but the one, one of them is a warrior, and he will bring the others back."

Heraclitus 500 b.c.

------------------

"We must be willing, individually and as a Nation, to accept whatever sacrifices may be required of us. A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
                           Dwight D. Eisenhower
           
-----------------------

Young men know the rules, but old men know the exceptions. 
--Oliver Wendell Holmes

-----------------------

 It is time for us to realize that we are too great a Nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us to believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.
                              Ronald Reagan 1981
25963  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 02, 2008, 07:22:02 PM
My guess is that the UFC sees Mir as the goldfish.  Much $$$ to be made with Lesner and Mir still has name, but sans roids and post accident he may not be what he was.
25964  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Gurkhas and their Kukris on: February 02, 2008, 07:19:30 PM
I too heard this story.  The variation I heard had it as a LALO jump, 800 feet.  Surprised at the limited response, the officer berated them.  The Gurkhas countered by asking for 400 feet.  It was only then that the officer realized they thought the jump was to be without parachutes. cheesy shocked

BTW, in the early days of the current war against Afghanistan I saw a report in the newspapers of a squad of Gurkhas marching in formation through a firefight between a couple of Afghani factions into the British compound to rescue some diplomats , , , and no one fcuked with them.
25965  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sacked for uncovering crucifix on: February 02, 2008, 06:25:41 PM
Porter sacked by hospital after he asks for 'multi-faith' prayer room crucifix be made visible

A hospital porter has been sacked after a row over a crucifix being covered up in a prayer room used by Muslims.

Joseph Protano, 54, was suspended four days after the incident last month at a children's hospital - and has since been dismissed.

The row centres on a prayer room available to staff and visitors of all faiths, which contains a statue of the Virgin Mary and a crucifix.

Mr Protano, a Roman Catholic who has worked two years at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Pendlebury, entered the room when three Muslims were using it - two patients and a doctor.

An argument broke out after he asked them to remove a cloth covering the crucifix and statue and to turn a picture of the Virgin Mary face up.

He has now been dismissed for gross misconduct but he intends to appeal.

Police quizzed him for four hours last month, on suspicion of religiously aggravated assault, but he was released without charge.

He denies the allegations and must wait to see if police take any action.

He said he was unable to comment on his sacking as the police probe and his plans to appeal were ongoing.

But a friend said: "He was very shocked at the decision. He thinks he has been treated terribly.

"He loves his job and doesn't do it for the money - until recently, his employers were paying just £5.88 an hour.

"They are saying he should not have gone into the prayer room and it is alleged he used racist language, which he totally refutes.

"His pay has been stopped, even though he intends to appeal, and he has had to sign on for benefits."

The friend said Mr Protano went into the prayer room about six times a day to check that the statue and crucifix were not left covered because he felt could be upsetting for visiting Christian parents to find them covered up.

The case has angered many hospital staff, who think he has been treated unfairly.

Police said a file had been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision over any further action.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
25966  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 02, 2008, 10:04:47 AM
"Steven Seagal"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d82j_Qfp_VA&feature=related
25967  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Gurkhas and their Kukris on: February 02, 2008, 08:35:22 AM
http://www.m4040.com/Survival/Ghurka/History%20of%20the%20Ghurka%20Kukri.htm
25968  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin: Virtue; on: February 02, 2008, 07:57:55 AM

"I pronounce it as certain that there was never yet a truly great
man that was not at the same time truly virtuous."

-- Benjamin Franklin (The Busy-body, No. 3, 18 February 1728)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Bigelow, ed., vol. 1
(350)

------------
25969  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mai Sok vs... on: February 02, 2008, 12:57:21 AM
The closest to a Mai Sowk fight was the double tonfa vs stick fight seen on SCSFg #6.  The tonfas were often used in a MS manner and helmets were used instead of masks.

Salty one invited me to fight against his Mai Sowks (he had made a pair to his dimensions that were quite scary), but being fond of my ribs I declined.  For a stick to have equal capability, I wonder if a hardwood stick would be necessary.

Our goal is for no one to spend the night in the hospital, our goal is for everyone to leave with the IQ with which he came.
25970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 08:36:59 PM
Two post copied from another forum:
==========================================

John McCain: The Democrats' Favorite Republican I got this email today and thought that I'd share the info with you guy's. I haven't had a chance to read all of the links, but I thought that some of you might be interested anyway.


John McCain: The Democrats' Favorite Republican (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGrWt-XICHc

John McCain is a Liberal


"I believe my party has gone astray. I think the Democratic Party is a fine party, and I have no problems with it, in their views and their philosophy." - John McCain

McCain Calls Conservative Leaders 'Agents of Intolerance' (The Wall Street Journal)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB9517...?mod=googlewsj

"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether ... on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." - John McCain

McCain's Age (Townhall)
http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/T...24/mccains_age

Age: 71

- McCain graduated 894th out of 899 in his class at the United States Naval Academy

Betrayal, deceit, corruption and John McCain (The U.S. Veteran Dispatch)
http://www.usvetdsp.com/nov07/mccain_deceit.htm

"While still married to Carol, McCain began an adulterous relationship with

Cindy. He married Cindy in May 1980 - just a month after dumping his

crippled wife and securing a divorce."

John McCain: The Geraldo Rivera Republican (Human Events)
http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=24621

McCain: I'll Respect Hillary (NewsMax)
http://www.newsmax.com/insidecover/m.../18/50422.html

"I Have No Doubt That Senator Clinton Would Make A Good President." - John McCain

The Real McCain Record (National Review Online)
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q...Y5NTZiOGNhOGQ=

Abortion:

John McCain Supports Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Audio)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvl3sDW8T9c

McCain Softens Abortion Stand (The Washington Post)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv...cain082499.htm

"But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations." - John McCain

Anger Issues:

Andy Card: I Have Seen John McCain's Anger (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...1/110824.shtml

John McCain: I Have Anger Issues (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...8/113442.shtml

John McCain's Temper Preceded Vietnam (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...0/123006.shtml

McCain Goes Nuts Near Senate Floor (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/210233.shtml

McCain's Out-of-Control Anger: Does He Have the Temperament to Be President? (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/.../5/00548.shtml

Vanity Fair Tiptoes Around McCain's Explosive Temper (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...0/182118.shtml

Endorsements:

Juan Hernandez, Open borders Advocate Endorses McCain (HotAir)
http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

Republicans for Al Gore (Environmental Protection) Endorses McCain (Press Release)http://www.rep.org/opinions/press_re...ase08-1-8.html

The New York Times Endorses John McCain and Clinton (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCan...29487020080125

Foreign Policy:

McCain considers setting benchmarks for Iraqis (Arizona Daily Star)
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/166271

McCain falls asleep during the State of the Union Address (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkkTFVIxMQs

McCain: No 'Torture' for 9/11 Mastermind (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...6/113204.shtml

McCain to Close Gitmo: "The first day I am President" (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Co7x3A12s

McCain: Torture Worked on Me (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/100012.shtml

Global Warming:

McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming Legislation (The National Center for Public Policy Research)
http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR1803.html

Senators McCain and Lieberman Propose Energy Tax (The National Center for Public Policy Research)http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR102103.html

"No drilling in ANWR, nor in the Everglades, nor off the coast of Florida ... To think that drilling in ANWR is the solution to our incredible energy needs is frankly, is not keeping in the reality of what's there, and what it would take to get it out." - John McCain

"I always have a glass of ethanol before breakfast every morning" - John McCain

Illegal Immigration:

McCain Would Sign Amnesty Bill as President (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLWRW4GoGHY

John McCain gets a 'D' on his Immigration Voting Report Card (Americans for Better Immigration)http://grades.betterimmigration.com/...ct=AZ&VIPID=33

- McCain favors business lobbyists’ desires for foreign workers vs. protecting American workers’ wages and jobs

- McCain’s hopes of giving millions amnesty will saddle American taxpayers with huge costs of $20,000 per illegal per year

- McCain has taken the pro-amnesty position in nearly two dozen votes

- McCain only promises to make 2 million of the 12-20 million illegal aliens go home

John McCain Praises Pro-illegal Protests (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...2/120003.shtml

McCain aide touts 'Mexico first' policy (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59890

McCain: "Americans Will Not Pick Lettuce for $50 an Hour" (AFL-CIO)
http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/04/05/50...ttuce-you-bet/

McCain called plan 'amnesty' in 2003 (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59567

"I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people, Amnesty has to be an important part..." - John McCain, 2003

McCain: U.S. Should Welcome Illegal Immigrants (FOXNews)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,123844,00.html

Michigan Crowd Boos McCain On Illegal Immigration (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-nVJGsTdKU
 

------------------------

Endorsements:

Juan Hernandez, Open borders Advocate Endorses McCain (HotAir)
http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

Republicans for Al Gore (Environmental Protection) Endorses McCain (Press Release)http://www.rep.org/opinions/press_re...ase08-1-8.html

The New York Times Endorses John McCain and Clinton (Reuters)
http://www.reuters.com/article/vcCan...29487020080125

Foreign Policy:

McCain considers setting benchmarks for Iraqis (Arizona Daily Star)
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/byauthor/166271

McCain falls asleep during the State of the Union Address (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WkkTFVIxMQs

McCain: No 'Torture' for 9/11 Mastermind (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...6/113204.shtml

McCain to Close Gitmo: "The first day I am President" (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Co7x3A12s

McCain: Torture Worked on Me (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...9/100012.shtml

Global Warming:

McCain and Lieberman Push for New Anti-Global Warming Legislation (The National Center for Public Policy Research)
http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR1803.html

Senators McCain and Lieberman Propose Energy Tax (The National Center for Public Policy Research)http://www.nationalcenter.org/TSR102103.html

"No drilling in ANWR, nor in the Everglades, nor off the coast of Florida ... To think that drilling in ANWR is the solution to our incredible energy needs is frankly, is not keeping in the reality of what's there, and what it would take to get it out." - John McCain

"I always have a glass of ethanol before breakfast every morning" - John McCain

Illegal Immigration:

McCain Would Sign Amnesty Bill as President (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLWRW4GoGHY

John McCain gets a 'D' on his Immigration Voting Report Card (Americans for Better Immigration)http://grades.betterimmigration.com/...ct=AZ&VIPID=33

- McCain favors business lobbyists’ desires for foreign workers vs. protecting American workers’ wages and jobs

- McCain’s hopes of giving millions amnesty will saddle American taxpayers with huge costs of $20,000 per illegal per year

- McCain has taken the pro-amnesty position in nearly two dozen votes

- McCain only promises to make 2 million of the 12-20 million illegal aliens go home

John McCain Praises Pro-illegal Protests (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...2/120003.shtml

McCain aide touts 'Mexico first' policy (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59890

McCain: "Americans Will Not Pick Lettuce for $50 an Hour" (AFL-CIO)
http://blog.aflcio.org/2006/04/05/50...ttuce-you-bet/

McCain called plan 'amnesty' in 2003 (WorldNetDaily)
http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=59567

"I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people, Amnesty has to be an important part..." - John McCain, 2003

McCain: U.S. Should Welcome Illegal Immigrants (FOXNews)
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,123844,00.html

Michigan Crowd Boos McCain On Illegal Immigration (Video) (1min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-nVJGsTdKU

Open borders advocate Juan Hernandez has joined the McCain campaign (HotAir)http://hotair.com/archives/2008/01/2...cain-campaign/

- Juan Hernandez, McCain Advisor: Mexico First! (Video) (4min)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1i7dyp_nK_Q

U.S. Border Patrol Agents Angry with McCain (NewsMax)
http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/...902.shtml?s=et

Marriage:

Christian Leader James Dobson says 'no way' to McCain candidacy (WorldNetDaily)http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=53743

"I think that gay marriage should be allowed if there's a ceremony kind of thing, if you wanna call it that. I don't have any problem with that." - John McCain

McCain: Same-sex marriage ban is un-Republican (CNN)
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/...cain.marriage/

Taxes:

"I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." - John McCain

McCain: For and Against Tax Cuts (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StZcJWpmKwk

McCain Boasts That He Voted Against The Bush Tax Cuts (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUDBV6RhQho

McCain Would Vote Against Tax Cuts Again (The Club for Growth)
http://www.clubforgrowth.org/2007/12...gainst_tax.php

- McCain sponsored and voted for an enormous 282% tax increase on cigarettes in 1998

- McCain was one of only two Republican to vote against the $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001

- McCain was one of only two Republicans to twice vote against permanent repeal of the death tax in 2002

- McCain was one of only three Republican to twice vote against the $350 billion tax cut in 2003

McCain’s Costly Tax on Energy (National Review Online)
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q...FhNTRlZTM5YzU=

- The EPA Estimates Sen. McCain's Plan Would Hike Gas Taxes By 68 Cents Per Gallon

- The EPA Estimates Sen. McCain's Plan Would Reduce United States GDP By As Much As $5.2 Trillion

McCain Rejects Anti-Tax Pledge (CNSNews)
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics....20080107b.html

Veterans:

McCain Can't Buy His Way Out of Votes Against Funding for Veterans
http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/alerts/226

- McCain Voted Against $19 Billion for Military Hospitals

- McCain Voted Against Amendment to Provide $2.8 Billion For Veterans' Medical Care

- McCain Voted Against 2005 Amendment to Provide Guaranteed Funding Stream for Veterans' Health Care

- McCain Voted Against Establishing $1 Billion Trust Fund to Provide Improvements to Military and Veterans' Health Facilities

- McCain Voted Against Adding $1.5 billion to Veterans' Medical Services in FY 2007 by Closing Corporate Tax Loopholes

- McCain Voted Against Mandatory Funding of $6.9 Billion in FY 2007 and $104 Billion Over Five Years for Veterans' Health Care
 
25971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 05:26:09 PM
Kerry:  "McCain approached me in 2004 about being my VP candidate"
http://mydd.com/story/2007/4/3/11936/97033
25972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 01, 2008, 10:20:24 AM
A nicely made point on another forum:
=======

I was intrigued by the reason the Witch gave last night for being against driving licenses for illegal immigrants.

From the transcript

"I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally"

"If you want to round up into four (million) people, how many tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officials would that take ... And how much authority would they have to be given to knock on every door of every business and every home? I don't think Americans would stand for that."

Lets read between the lines. Registration is bad for illegal immigrants as Republicans would use it as a database to round them up.

Now lets go back to 2000 where The Witch said:

"We license drivers before they get behind the wheel to make sure they can drive safely. We register cars to make sure someone is responsible for every vehicle on the road. But we don't do the same for deadly weapons,"

So we need to register guns but don't worry registration will not lead to confiscation. We should not register illegal immigrants as that will lead to deportation... Now how can someone be prepared to swear to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" when they have no regard for the 2nd amendment but will twist the rules to keep illegals here?
__________________
25973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 31, 2008, 04:49:09 PM
Obama Comes to Earth?

Republicans may be on the verge of selecting a nominee, but Democrats are making plans for some long trench warfare.

Mark Penn, a pollster and key strategist for Hillary Clinton, told reporters on a conference call yesterday that he thinks "the search for delegates is going to continue... straight through to the convention."

Mr. Penn also told reporters that while Barack Obama has been basking in his endorsement by Ted Kennedy, there are signs that voters are starting to see Mr. Obama as just another politician: "I think there's a growing perception that Sen. Obama is on the attack."

Logistics also favor the Clinton campaign in the Super Tuesday primaries to be held next week. Mr. Penn noted that unions with six million members are backing the New York Senator and will be on the ground providing get-out-the-vote muscle and resources to deliver her supporters to the polls.

-- John Fund
Mitt Closes His Wallet

Nothing in yesterday's GOP presidential debate from the Reagan Library in California changed John McCain's front-runner status. Mr. McCain was clearly not particularly likeable or at the top of his game but he swatted away the criticisms hurled at him with ease. Mitt Romney was dragged into a lengthy defense on an alleged statement he made about a timetable for withdrawal in Iraq. As the old adage goes: if you are explaining, you are not gaining.

Mr. Romney has only a few days left to change the dynamic of the race before 21 states vote next Tuesday. As of yesterday afternoon, his campaign had purchased no television ad time in any of the Super Tuesday states. "If Thursday goes by without an ad buy, it will be a sign the Romney campaign is only going through the motions," says one TV advertising expert with ties to no candidate. "After all, we know he can write a check if he has to."

-- John Fund
The Candidate Who Memorized 'In Search of Excellence'

At last night's (blessedly) final Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney had the look, and sound, of someone who knows it's over. While predictions in this political season have become a fool's game, I am going to venture that no matter how many states he competes in, Gov. Romney knows he will never close the five-point gap that separated him from John McCain in New Hampshire and now Florida.

Last night the famous Matinee Mitt smile of self-confidence seemed to have been replaced by a more relaxed, wistful glance over at the Arizona Senator seated next to him. That resigned, tight smile said something: I am smarter than you are, Senator, on virtually every issue other than who ran Pakistan 10 years ago, but I am still losing. Why?

Here's why. As was clear again in last night's debate, Gov. Romney's message on the campaign trail or on TV was a perpetual data-dump. Yes, Mitt was smarter than the other guys, but he had the smartest-kid-in-the-class malady of compulsively trying to show off his brain with what in the end merely amounted to a lot of policy details, a lot of "stuff." Did anyone ever understand his explanation of his Massachusetts health care reform?

Result: His message was disorganized. The bumper sticker was "Let Mitt Fix Washington," but the Mitt fix itself came across to audiences as a grab-bag of analysis, nostrums and pieces of supporting data pulled randomly from some folder in his brain. As Mike Huckabee might put it, the bane of the Romney candidacy was Bain & Company. Bain is the consulting firm where by his own admission Mr. Romney learned how to think about the world -- through the eyes of a management consultant. As any CEO who has ever hired one of these firms will tell you, they are fascinating guys to talk to but you wouldn't want them actually running your company.

The Romney candidacy never quite came into focus. Yeah, fix Washington, but beyond that a blizzard of technocratic data at every whistlestop. One can see why he'd be maddened losing to the almost stolid McCain candidacy. But no one could miss the McCain message: national honor, a duty to fulfill the nation's responsibilities and the real and present danger of an external threat. It's a mindset they teach in the military but not in consulting: Keep it simple, stupid.

Mitt couldn't. He's done.

-- Daniel Henninger
Quote of the Day

"One reality is likely to emerge for voters who care most about national security: John McCain enthusiastically supported the surge, the key course correction in a battle that all Republicans call the 'central front' in the war on terror -- and he did so at great political risk. Still, McCain had several moments [in last night's debate] that will anger conservatives. His line that he worked 'for patriotism, not for profit' is bad. Romney rightly suggested that small business owners will be offended at the implication that profits are somehow ignoble. McCain earns a lot of support because of his service -- military and political. But people know it without him touting his own patriotism. McCain threw a sharp elbow at Romney for laying people off during his time as a venture capitalist. It was unwise and undignified. I imagine his advisers all cringed at the substance and timing of it" -- Stephen Hayes, writing on last night's GOP debate at weeklystandard.com.

Class of '94

The recent retirement announcements by Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) means that 28 Republicans in the House of Representatives will not be returning in 2009, and scratches two more members of the historic 1994 Republican freshman class from the House roster. Out with the tide is slowly going the Republican commando force that, led by Newt Gingrich and campaigning on the "contract with America," ended 40 years of Democratic control in the House.

In 2006, eight members of the 1994 class were either defeated or resigned in scandal. And the attrition continues. Along with Mr. Davis and Mr. Weldon, fellow 1994 classmates Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) are retiring this year. Among the five, only Mr. LaHood was not likely to be seriously challenged. With their retirements, plus the recent appointment of Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to the Senate, the 73-member Republican Revolution class will have dwindled to 17 by next year.

The only remaining 1994 class member who is likely to face serious re-election competition this year is Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), whose toughest race may be in the Republican primary. In 2007, Mr. Jones was one of only two Republicans to join Democrats in co-sponsoring the non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop surge in Iraq. The same congressman who in 2003 pushed the House cafeteria to rename French fries "freedom fries" is now facing a challenge from the right for his stance on the Iraq war.


-- Kyle Trygstad, RealClearPolitics.com


WSJ
25974  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Survival issues outside the home on: January 31, 2008, 04:30:03 PM
Biggs's Tips for Rich: Expect War, Study Blitz, Mind Markets

Review by James Pressley

Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Barton Biggs has some offbeat advice for the rich: Insure yourself against war and disaster by buying a remote farm or ranch and stocking it with ``seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc.''

The ``etc.'' must mean guns.

``A few rounds over the approaching brigands' heads would probably be a compelling persuader that there are easier farms to pillage,'' he writes in his new book, ``Wealth, War and Wisdom.''

Biggs is no paranoid survivalist. He was chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley before leaving in 2003 to form hedge fund Traxis Partners. He doesn't lock and load until the last page of this smart look at how World War II warped share prices, gutted wealth and remains a warning to investors. His message: Listen to markets, learn from history and prepare for the worst.

``Wealth, War and Wisdom'' fills a void. Library shelves are packed with volumes on World War II. The history of stock markets also has been ably recorded, notably in Robert Sobel's ``The Big Board.'' Yet how many books track the intersection of the two?

The ``wisdom'' in the alliterative title refers to the spooky way markets can foreshadow the future. Biggs became fascinated with this phenomenon after discovering by chance that equity markets sensed major turning points in the war.

The British stock market bottomed out in late June 1940 and started rising again before the truly grim days of the Battle of Britain in July to October, when the Germans were splintering London with bombs and preparing to invade the U.K.

`Epic Bottom'

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plumbed ``an epic bottom'' in late April and early May of 1942, then began climbing well before the U.S. victory in the Battle of Midway in June turned the tide against the Japanese.

Berlin shares ``peaked at the high-water mark of the German attack on Russia just before the advance German patrols actually saw the spires of Moscow in early December of 1941.''

``Those were the three great momentum changes of World War II -- although at the time, no one except the stock markets recognized them as such.''

Biggs isn't suggesting that Mr. Market is infallible: He can get ``panicky and crazy in the heat of the moment,'' he says. Over the long haul, though, markets display what James Surowiecki calls ``the wisdom of crowds.''

Like giant voting machines, they aggregate the judgments of individuals acting independently into a collective assessment. Biggs stress-tests this theory against events that shook nations from the Depression through the Korean War, which he calls ``the last battle of World War II.''

Refresher Course

Biggs has read widely and thought deeply. He has a pleasing conversational style, an eye for memorable anecdotes and a weakness for Winston Churchill's quips. His book works as a brisk refresher course.

What really packs a wallop, though, is his combination of military history, market action, maps and charts. It's one thing to say that the London market scraped bottom before the Battle of Britain. It's another to show it.

In May and June 1940, some 338,000 British and French troops had been evacuated from Dunkirk by a flotilla of fishing boats, tugs, barges, yachts and river steamers. The French and Belgian armies had collapsed; the Dutch had surrendered. Britain stood alone, as bombs shattered London and the Nazis prepared to invade. Yet stocks rallied.

Mankind endures “an episode of great wealth destruction” at least once every century, Biggs reminds us. So the wealthy should prepare to ride out a disaster, be it a tsunami, a market meltdown or Islamic terrorists with a dirty bomb.

The rich get complacent, assuming they will have time ``to extricate themselves and their wealth'' when trouble comes, Biggs says. The rich are mistaken, as the Holocaust proves.

``Events move much faster than anyone expects,'' he says, ``and the barbarians are on top of you before you can escape.''

Wealth, War and Wisdom is from Wiley (358 pages, $29.95).

(James Pressley writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
25975  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 31, 2008, 04:26:20 PM
Unfortunately not nominating him means we've lost the most effective advocate for winning the war in Iraq, preventing Iran's nuke program, and fighting Islamic Fascism.
25976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ecological Economics on: January 31, 2008, 04:24:14 PM
Karsk:

The free market requires that all costs of a transaction are born by buyer and seller.  Thus, pollution is a violation of the free market, and as such IMHO fair game for taxation, penalties, etc.  IN LIEU OF taxation of good things like income, profit, savings, inheritance, etc.

As for the problem of the public commons, the simple fact is that Marxist and State driven economies tend to have absolutely terrible records when it comes to protecting the environment e.g. Russia, China.  The simple fact is the the relatively free market economies tend to produce the standard of living which enables concern for the environment.

We have seen numerous examples of what happens when a forest is not owned--everyone cuts down trees before someone else does-- net result, no forest) and when a forest is owned--owners self-interest is to harvest at sustaining levels.  Did you know that the forest seen in the beginning of "The Last of the Mohicans" was filmed in a lumber company's forest?  This applies to animals too.  Where the Masai can make $ off lion and elephant related tourism, they stop trying to eliminate them. 

In short the argument of the piece you post is, IMHO, "the usual marxist tripe hidden under a swatch of green."  grin
25977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: January 31, 2008, 04:07:10 PM
Good question there.

Re: David Gordon's call on VMW.  Tis a rare event for him to have a pick bomb as badly as VMW has.  OUCH (and I just read that GOOG, a big success story of his, is down 10% after hours today).  I'm following his advice on his blog on when and how to get out.
25978  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 31, 2008, 09:19:43 AM
I agree, but here's the problem: I like Romney's positions better than McCain's. I doubt his ability to debate either of Lady Evita or BO.  I agree with his immigration policies, but worry he has not accompanied them with word and deed that will enable the Reps to maintain competitiveness with the Dems for the Latino vote.  As hard line as I am on illegals, I am also clear that good immigration is good and necessary for the US-- and Romney has not really paired this point with his properly hardline comments on illegals. 
We saw this happen in California over an initiatitive some years back-- and now CA is a solidly Dem state.  I doubt his ability to not get buttf*cked by a Dem congress and the Dem controlled MSM into compromising on just about everything.  Current polls have McC beating both Lady Evita and BO, and Romney losing to both.

What to do?

25979  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 31, 2008, 09:11:07 AM

TORONTO - A Toronto-area man has been posting messages on the Internet supporting attacks against Canadian soldiers on Canadian soil, drawing the attention of RCMP national security investigators.
Police have advised the Bangladeshi-Canadian that he is under investigation for incitement and facilitating terrorism after he repeatedly called the killing of Canadian troops in Canada "legitimate" and "well deserved."
No charges have been laid, but counterterrorism officers are apparently taking it seriously, and the case has set off a debate inside government over where to draw the line between free expression and incitement.
"The promotion of hate and violence has no place in Canadian society, and it is an offence under the Criminal Code," Stockwell Day, the Minister of Public Safety, responded when shown a sample of the postings. "Our government carefully balances the right to freedom of expression with our duty to protect Canadians from harm."

Alarm bells about the online writings went off last September after German authorities arrested three Islamic militants accused of planning to bomb the Ramstein Air Base and Frankfurt International Airport.
That same day, Salman Hossain posted several messages about the plot on the comment board of a Toronto-based Internet site where he is a frequent contributor.
Although Mr. Hossain claimed in one of his communications with the National Post that he made the comments in a private online chat room, the messages can easily be viewed by anyone using a simple Google search.
"I hope the German brothers were gonna blow up US-German bases in their country. We should do that here in Canada as well. Kill as many western soldiers as well so that they think twice before entering foreign countries on behalf of their Jew masters," he wrote.
"Any and all Western soldiers getting prepared to enter Muslim nations like Afghanistan or Iraq should be legitimate targets by any and all Islamic militants either in the attacked nations or in the western nations --if there were any planned attacks against Canadian/ American soldiers by 'Muslim militants' in Canadian soil, I'd support it," he added.

"Canadian soldiers in Canadian soil who are training to go to Afghanistan or Iraq are legitimate targets to be killed. … Now it is POSSIBLE AND LEGITIMATE!! ... believe me, if we could have enough of our soldiers killed, then we'd be forced to withdrawn from Afghanistan."
In addition, he singles out Jews, writing: "When do I get to shoot a few Jews down for attempting to blow up dozens of mosques in America right after 9-11 … why f---ing target the Americans when the Jews are better?"

The author of the messages is a Mississauga university student in his mid-twenties who claims to know the infamous Khadr family and several of the men arrested in Toronto in June, 2006, on terrorism conspiracy charges. He confirmed to the National Post that he was the author of the postings but later declined to comment further on the advice of his lawyer. While he writes that he approves of attacking Canadian troops, he also says he would not do so himself.

Despite being visited by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and RCMP and told he was under investigation, Mr. Hossain has continued to post messages approving of attacks on Canadian troops.
Saying anti-war protests "will do sh$$," he describes a "mass casualty" attack on the home-front as "a well considered option" and "the best way to compel western soldiers to get out of Afghanistan/Iraq."
Such an attack "would be fantastic and would get the job done," he writes. "If someone gets the bright idea of committing such a wonderful act, it's NOT my responsibility in any way, shape or form."
He wrote, "I enjoy watching the blood flow from the western troops," and during Defence Minister Peter MacKay's Christmas week visit to Kandahar, he wrote: "I pray that the Taliban kill our Mackay motherf---er."
In other postings, he wishes "a merry 9-11, and I wish y'all many more merry 9-11s"; says "the Jews are literally the most treacherous nation on the face of the Earth"; says "I hate the Jews"; and claims "the filthy Jews carried out 9-11."

He rails at police, saying "you can't charge me for possessing a thought" and writes that he "honestly got a kick outta pissing off the RCMP … HAHAHA … i was laughing my ass off for provoking the RCMP."
The case comes as Canadian security agencies are struggling to deal with extremism among a minority of Muslim Canadians, particularly youths. Intelligence analysts believe much of this radicalization is occurring on the Internet.
"So what we are in the presence of is a ranter, informed by the usual conspiratorial views that are unfortunately part and parcel of extremist Islamist thought -- especially the core anti-Semitic notion of a giant Jewish conspiracy," said Professor Wesley Wark, a Canadian security expert.

But he said while the language is violent and crude, it is probably harmless venting. "On the other hand, there is always a worry that such speech could tip over into action by this person or others of like mind."
The RCMP would not comment on the probe, saying sensitive matters of national security were involved, but spokeswoman Corporal Cathy McCrory said the government was "committed to ensuring the safety and security of citizens and we will not tolerate those that seek to harm Canadians."
Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) does not specifically outlaw incitement of terrorism, although such a measure has been discussed by MPs.
Prof. Work, visiting research professor at the University of Ottawa School of Public and International Affair, said a debate on the topic is needed.
"It's high time we had a proper public airing of the pros and cons of further reforms to the ATA, including an incitement clause, and a public airing of the nature of legal powers needed to ensure prompt and effective monitoring of potentially harmful Internet traffic."
A few days after Mr. Hossain wrote that "we should do" a Ramstein-type plot in Canada, the RCMP contacted him. He spoke to them on Sept. 18 at his lawyer's office.

He later posted messages saying he was under police investigation, but he said that "cheerleading" for Muslim insurgents in Afghanistan "is every Muslim's right."
Although he did not tone down his rhetoric, he did make one change: His comments are now sometimes followed by a disclaimer that says he is not inciting violence but merely "suggesting" scenarios and he is not responsible if they actually happen.
"I don't see how the right to free speech includes deliberate
incitement to violence," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor and a leading international expert on terrorism, after reading the postings.
"One would think that [Canadian soldiers] are owed more than, 'Well, I don't think we can secure a conviction.' How demoralizing is it for soldiers to find out that people are openly advocating terrorism against them and yet the government who they serve won't do anything about it because it's either too much trouble or there's no guarantee they're going to succeed?"

Prof. Hoffman said the postings remind him of the material that incited Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. "Reading those, I was wondering, is there any Western country that would tolerate people posting things talking about staging attacks like this?"
He said that while there was no guarantee a criminal case would succeed, prosecutors might want to go ahead anyway, if only to send a message that "you can't openly advocate the murder of Canadian soldiers.
Four months after he met RCMP officers at his lawyer's office, the Mississauga man continues to make provocative postings. On Jan. 17, he wrote that, "If the Taliban had the capability to attack our troops in our own soil, which I personally hope they do in the future, then these pussies will be dead scared of sending any more troops in2 Afghanistan."
sbell@nationalpost.com
__________________
25980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 31, 2008, 09:04:18 AM
Edwards Yay, Giuliani Eh
Each of the two bye-kus above this item links to an Associated Press story about the respective candidate's decision to withdraw from the race, and the contrast is quite striking. Here is the AP's Nedra Pickler on the lovely and talented Edwards:

Democrat John Edwards is exiting the presidential race Wednesday, ending a scrappy underdog bid in which he steered his rivals toward progressive ideals while grappling with family hardship that roused voters' sympathies but never diverted his campaign, The Associated Press has learned.
Wow, how did the AP learn that Edwards's campaign was "scrappy" and that it "steered his rivals toward progressive ideals"? That must've taken some heavy-duty research!

Pickler also credits Edwards with having "waged a spirited top-tier campaign against the two better-funded rivals." It seems that he "burst out of the starting gate with a flurry of progressive policy ideas":

The ideas were all bold and new for Edwards personally as well, making him a different candidate than the moderate Southerner who ran in 2004 while still in his first Senate term. But the themes were eventually adopted by other Democratic presidential candidates--and even a Republican, Mitt Romney, echoed the call for an end to special interest politics in Washington.
Who'd a thunk that "even a Republican" would endorse Edwards's bold new idea of "an end to special interest politics in Washington"?

By contrast, the AP's Devlin Barrett covers the Giuliani withdrawal straight:

Rudy Giuliani, who bet his presidential hopes on Florida only to come in third, prepared to quit the race Tuesday and endorse his friendliest rival, John McCain.
The former New York mayor stopped short of announcing he was stepping down, but delivered a valedictory speech that was more farewell than fight-on.
Giuliani finished a distant third to winner John McCain and close second-place finisher Mitt Romney. Republican officials said Giuliani would endorse McCain on Wednesday in California. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the public announcement.
Barrett notes that the former mayor's distant third-place finish in yesterday's Florida primary "was a remarkable collapse for Giuliani"--ultimately a matter of opinion, we suppose, but one with which it's hard to disagree. In describing Giuliani's background, he has some kind words, but they are much more tempered than Pickler's on Edwards:

Giuliani hung his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on his leadership. His stalwart performance as New York mayor in the tense days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks earned him national magazine covers, international accolades and widespread praise.
Yet, Giuliani was always a Republican anomaly--a moderate-to-liberal New Yorker who backed abortion rights, gay rights and gun control in a party dominated by Southern conservatives.
Now it is true that everyone, even reporters, is human. If you spend a good portion of your life covering politics, you are going to develop feelings about politicians, and if you're not careful, they may slip into your news coverage. What bothers us about this Pickler dispatch--and about many other instances of media bias we've pointed to over the years--is that the reporter doesn't even seem to have bothered to be careful. It may not be possible for a reporter to achieve the ideal of perfect objective detachment, but that's no excuse not to try.

James Taranto WSJ
25981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: January 31, 2008, 08:35:32 AM
 UK - Teachers not to assume children have hetero parents

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Don't say mum and dad... teachers told not to assume pupils have heterosexual parents

By LAURA CLARK - More by this author » Last updated at 10:48am on 30th January 2008

Teachers should not assume that their pupils have a "mum and dad" under guidance aimed at tackling anti-gay bullying in schools.

It says primary pupils as young as four should be familiarised with the idea of same-sex couples to help combat homophobic attitudes.

Teachers should attempt to avoid assumptions that pupils will have a conventional family background, it urges.

It goes on to suggest the word "parents" may be more appropriate than "mum and dad", particularly in letters and emails to the child's home.

When discussing marriage with secondary pupils, teachers should also educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.

The guidance - produced for the Government by gay rights group Stonewall - will be formally launched today by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

It states that children who call classmates "gay" should be treated the same as racists as part of a "zero tolerance" crackdown on the use of the word as an insult.

Teachers should avoid telling boys to "be a man" or accuse them of behaving like a "bunch of women".

This sort of rebuke "leads to bullying of those who do not conform to fixed ideas about gender", the guidance states.

At the same time, schools should encourage gay role models among staff, parents and governors. Homosexual staff should be able to discuss their private lives after the consultation with the head teacher.

In advice to gay staff, it states: "School culture and ethos determines how open staff are about their private lives, and you should therefore seek advice and guidance from your head."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families commissioned Stonewall to write the guidance jointly with lobby group Education Action Challenging Homophobia.

It says that pupils aged four to seven should "understand that not all pupils have a mum and a dad" and learn about different family structures. Advice to teachers of 11 to 14-year-olds states: "Schools should make efforts to talk inclusively about same-sex parents, for example, avoid assuming all pupils will have a "mum and dad". "When schools discuss marriage, they may also discuss civil partnership and adoption rights for gay people."

In a section on engaging with parents, it asks schools: "Do you talk about 'parents' instead of assuming all pupils have 'mum or a dad'?" The advice goes on to urge teachers to challenge every derogatory use of the word gay to avert homophobic attitudes. Examples include "those trainers are so gay", "that pencil case is so gay" or "you're such a gay boy".

One primary teacher quoted in the guidance said: "We hear 'gay' as a term of abuse every single day. The children may not know exactly what it means, but they know they are using it as an insult. That's why we need to tackle it at this stage."

Controversy over the semantics of the word erupted two years ago when the BBC ruled that Radio One DJ Chris Moyles was not being offensive to homosexuals by using the word "gay" to mean "rubbish". The advice says: "It is important for all staff to challenge pupils, explaining the consequences of using 'gay' in a derogatory way.

"It might be time-consuming at first, but a consistent 'zero-tolerance' approach to such language is central to achieving progress and an environment in which being gay is not thought of as being inferior."

It adds: "Schools need to make it clear to pupils that homophobic comments are as serious as racist comments, and homophobic incidents are as serious as other forms of bullying."

Teachers should use every curriculum subject to nip discriminatory attitudes in the bud. English lessons for teenagers, for example, could focus on the emotions of the gay Italian soldier Carlo in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The guidance is being published five years after the repeal of Section 28 - the law which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Ministers promised the move would make no difference to the teaching of homosexual matters but some critics have claimed the gay lobby is having a growing influence on pupils. Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, where pupils learn about apparently gay figures from history including Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde and James Dean.

Mr Balls, who will launch the anti-bullying guidance at a Stonewall conference today, said: "I am proud the Government and the department are being robust about this. "It is our view that every school should have a clear policy on tackling all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
25982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 31, 2008, 07:42:27 AM
"He was too New York, too Italian, and he had too many wives."
DOROTHY KALIADES, of Queens, on the problems with Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential quest.

================
GM:

Looks like McCain is going to be endorsed by our Dem in Rep clothing governor too , , ,
===========

WSJ

Hillary's Smear Campaign
By MICHAEL ZELDIN
January 31, 2008; Page A17

Beginning with the South Carolina debate, and continuing as an applause line in many stump speeches thereafter, Hillary Clinton has accused Barack Obama of representing an inner-city slum lord while practicing law in Chicago. Of all people, Sen. Clinton should know better.

During the Whitewater investigation, Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr investigated the legal work performed by Mrs. Clinton, then a partner in the Rose law firm, on behalf of Jim McDougal and his bank, Madison Guaranty. Mr. Starr believed that Mrs. Clinton helped orchestrate the fraudulent land deal known as Castle Grande. He subpoenaed her billing records, hauled her before a grand jury, and relentlessly pursued her.

 
In her defense, Mrs. Clinton and her attorneys asserted that her involvement in the matter was de minimus. As one of independent counsels who preceded Mr. Starr, I was interviewed repeatedly on the subject. I wholeheartedly defended Mrs. Clinton.

I believed that the evidence revealed that Mrs. Clinton, who spent a total of only 60 hours of work on the case over a 15-month period, was not substantially involved in the matter and did nothing improper in her work on behalf of Madison Guaranty. In the end, no charges were brought against Mrs. Clinton because there was insufficient evidence to prove that she knowingly assisted anyone in the perpetration of a fraud.

Yet, when an opportunity presented itself in the debate, Mrs. Clinton, without so much as a blink of an eye or the slightest blush, denounced Sen. Obama for representing "Tony Rezko in his slum landlord business in inner-city Chicago." Her accusation invites scrutiny. Not so much for the truth of the accusation (the facts are quite straightforward and completely benign) but as a window into Mrs. Clinton's character and as a lens with which to see whether a Clinton presidency will be a vehicle for change.

The facts are well documented: Upon graduation from Harvard Law School in 1991, Mr. Obama, the first African-American president of the Harvard Law review, could have named his job at any law firm or corporate legal department in America. Instead, he selected a boutique civil rights law firm, Miner Barnhill & Galland, where he represented community organizers, discrimination victims and black voters trying to force a redrawing of city ward boundaries.

During his tenure at Miner Barnhill, the firm accepted the representation of the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., a nonprofit group that redeveloped a run-down property on Chicago's South Side. Mr. Rezko, not the client of the firm, was assisting Woodland with City housing redevelopment projects. As a junior associate, Mr. Obama was asked by his supervising attorney, William Miceli, to do about five hours of basic due diligence and document review. That began and ended his involvement in the case.

No one who has ever practiced law, let alone Mrs. Clinton, could argue, with a clear conscience, that these five hours on behalf of a church group that partnered with a man who at a later point in time would be alleged to be a scoundrel equated to knowingly representing a Chicago slumlord. Yet she could not resist leveling the accusation.

I suggest that this provides a window into Mrs. Clinton's character because notwithstanding the enormous suffering she had to endure when accused of wrongful conduct in her representation of Madison Guaranty -- a representation that appears to have been no more than a routine business transaction -- she is willing to behave no differently than did her Whitewater accusers if she can gain politically. She appears to have learned no lessons from the Starr investigation.

Mrs. Clinton's willingness to ignore the truth for short-term political advantage is exactly what breeds the partisanship that's paralyzed Washington for too many years, and the cynicism felt by so many Americans, especially the young. Getting ahead by any means possible is the strategy. Once elected, the candidate falsely believes that he or she will be able to set things right and govern differently. All that was said in the campaign is rationalized -- it will be forgiven and forgotten as part of the hyperbole of the election process.

Sadly, it just isn't so. No one forgets and no one forgives in Washington. (Ask John Kerry if he has gotten over the Swift boat smear campaign.) How you get elected defines who you will be once in power. Mrs. Clinton has shown us with this one simple, baseless accusation why it will be hard for her candidacy to represent a change. She appears too comfortable with the politics of personal destruction if she can gain a political advantage.

Mr. Zeldin is a former independent counsel and federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. He has volunteered for Barack Obama in the Democratic primary campaign.
--------------------

What McCain's Got
January 31, 2008; Page A16
Orlando, Fla.

In a time of Republican confusion, Sen. John McCain, reviled as an unreliable maverick, has won three GOP primaries. Florida showed why he's winning.

In the age of modern media, it is possible for anyone with access to Google to learn almost everything there is to know about a presidential campaign -- polls, strategies, stump speeches, background papers, bottomless punditry. What more does one need to know? If the day comes that campaigns are run only with Web videos, that is indeed all you'll need to know. But they're not. They are still worked town by town, from diners to bagel shops and in places like Sun City, Fla., where several hundred retirees gathered Saturday to hear John McCain.

 
John McCain beat Mitt Romney by 5.5 points in New Hampshire and by five again in Florida. Three months ago, Mr. McCain was a 10% cipher in Florida, with no organization and no donors. This week one saw why John McCain is basically five points better than Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, at the most fundamental job in politics -- connecting.

When Mr. McCain took the stage in Sun City, the applause was polite. When he finished, he got a standing ovation. He has been at this game a long time, and his ability to sense and ride the emotional flow of an audience is astonishing.

It discomfits some, including me, that Mr. McCain seems like a live, capped volcano. But in front of an audience like this, and before a younger group two days later at the Tampa Convention Center, he stood with that tight, little upper body of coiled electricity and plugged his message of honor, commitment and threat straight into the guts of his listeners.

Rudy Giuliani's antiterror message has been strong and credible, but it was almost an abstraction compared to the meat and potatoes of the McCain presentation.

He asks veterans to stand. About 70 men rise, to great applause. He's talking about the "transcendent threat of radical Islamic extremism" and from there to homicidal doctors in Scotland and arrests in Germany. "Al Qaeda is on the run, but they're not defeated!" He wraps himself, justifiably, in the "Petraeus" surge. And then, "My friends, doesn't the president deserve credit that there hasn't been another attack on the U.S.?" They are going nuts. It wasn't demagogic. He does it with tone and timing. You can almost see his eyes calibrating.

Retail politics still matter, and in an era of terror, war and loss of national self-esteem, John McCain is a retail politics powerhouse.

Some strengths and weaknesses emerged in the Sun City Q&A. The first question was about "our borders," and Mr. McCain brought down the house with, "Thank you, sir, and this meeting is over." The volcano then gets into a gratuitously testy exchange with an anti-immigrant speaker who was already being hooted by the audience. On Social Security, he reverted to the Greenspan Commission. That was back in 1982, and it produced a tax increase.

Mr. McCain is hapless on economics. The answer to why he nonetheless beat Mr. Romney by eight points with economic voters is in large part his effective denunciations of the Bush-GOP spending surge in the first veto-less term. There's nothing "maverick" about that. That spending is the main thing that drove the GOP base into its famous funk.

If Mitt Romney were capable of sadness, he should be depressed. He's very good. That famous, equivocal stiff on the debate stage isn't the same person who pitched himself to about 150 people Monday on the tarmac at the Fort Myers airport. This was an almost nothing stop, but he acted as if it were the first week of the campaign. He came across as energetic, alive, young, smart, informed and ready to work his tail off to "fix Washington." (His remark that Mr. McCain "will say anything to get elected" did have a few reporters exchanging glances.) He spent a long time after the speech immersed in the audience, chatting. He didn't have to do that. He may be unnaturally smooth, but Mitt's a heavy-hitter.

So why is he losing? McCain endorsements by Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez mattered in Florida. But an aide explained after the speech that in New Hampshire and Michigan they watched Mr. McCain rise almost in sync with Rudy's sudden decline. Indeed, the Romney candidacy may ultimately fall victim to the catastrophic Giuliani all-Florida decision.

Tuesday night, at the Giuliani wake in the Portofino Hotel in Orlando, a high official with the campaign said their internal polls had Rudy as the "preferred" candidate for many voters. But naturally, he said, most voters don't want to cast a likely losing vote. It is enraging some conservatives that marginally more of these Giuliani votes are migrating to John McCain. Mitt needed Rudy in the race.

Rudy just doesn't have McCain's national campaign skills, or desire. He arrived at the Fort Myers tarmac in the afternoon after Mitt Romney (Mitt was early, Rudy late). Gave a terrific stump speech -- terror, tax cuts, even threw in the Everglades. Rudy Giuliani didn't have supporters; he had fans. This clutch of fans was separated from him by a red felt rope, as you would see outside clubs in New York.

After the speech, he stepped off the small stage, took off his suit jacket, folded it for an aide and then, staying on his side of the rope with Judith, attached to him like Cling Wrap, he autographed "Rudy Country" signs. And never said a single word. Not a word, save one guy who forced a conversation. All they got from Rudy was an autograph and a grin, which never fell from his face. It was weird.

This will ever be a mysterious candidacy. You can say there was Rudy baggage yet to fall, that the success of the Iraq surge flowed to John McCain, that the half-baked Driving Miss Judy stories hurt, that he was low on money.

Still. He could have competed for a second or third in New Hampshire. Instead he decamped and settled for humiliation, finishing behind a Mike Huckabee whose public life is a dot compared to the Giuliani legacy in New York City. Rudy ran on that legacy, and one suspects came to realize New York was the peak. Running for president requires fire in the belly. But you have to show it on both sides of the velvet rope.
WSJ
25983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Big catch up post on: January 31, 2008, 07:16:37 AM
Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among
the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of
their rights and liberties, and as these depend on spreading the
opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of
the country, and among the different orders of people, it shall be
the duty of legislators and magistrates... to cherish the interest
of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them."

-- John Adams (Thoughts on Government, 1776)

Reference: The Works of John Adams, Charles Adams, ed., 259.
============

“To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that... to model our political systems upon speculations of lasting tranquility would be to calculate on the weaker springs of human character.” —Alexander Hamilton
==============
“In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.” —Alexander Hamilton
===============
"The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by
all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the
most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly
become a primary object of its political cares."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 12, 27 November 1787)

Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 12.
===============

Would it not be better to simplify the system of taxation rather than to spread it over such a variety of subjects and pass through so many new hands.” —Thomas Jefferson

===============

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of
all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form
of government, a real despotism.  A just estimate of that love of
power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human
heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position."

-- George Washington (Farewell Address, 19 September 1796)

Reference: George Washington: A Collection, W.B. Allen, ed. (521)

================


"The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time;
the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them."

-- Thomas Jefferson (Summary View of the Rights of British America,
August 1774)

Reference: Jefferson: Writings, Peterson ed., Library of America
(122)
============

"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible
hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People
of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced
to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency."

-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)

Reference: resp. quoted

============

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.” —George Washington

============

"It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have
refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the
object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as
murderous as the violence of the wolf."

-- Thomas Paine (The American Crisis, No. 1, 19 December 1776)

Reference: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings , Foner ed., Library
of America (97)
================


"There is no part of the administration of government that requires
extensive information and a thorough knowledge of the principles
of political economy, so much as the business of taxation. The
man who understands those principles best will be least likely
to resort to oppressive expedients, or sacrifice any particular
class of citizens to the procurement of revenue. It might be
demonstrated that the most productive system of finance will
always be the least burdensome."

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 35, 1788)

Reference: The Federalist

===============

  • ur Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course.” —George Washington

===============


"It is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities
which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the
history of our country."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Hugh P. Taylor, 4 October 1823)

25984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 31, 2008, 12:19:08 AM
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19227412&BRD=1304&PAG=461&dept_id= 180486&rfi=6

Muslim opening prayer at Iowa Statehouse raises concerns
By: Erin Ballou, Pilot Tribune Staff January 24, 2008

The Iowa Legislature started just over a week ago and some people were upset before the first issue was every addressed.
When the session began, a Muslim Imam began the prayer in the Iowa Legislature. This is where the controversy begins.
The prayer asked of "Victory over those who disbelieve," and "Protection from the great Satan" among other things.
Pastor Steve Smith of the Evangelical Free Church in Albert City is among those concerned about the Muslim prayer. Rev. Smith admits that he doesn't know about all the levels of Muslim but knows that the Jihadists believe those in the U.S. are the great Satan.
Rev. Smith also wants to point out the mention of "victory over those who disbelieve." He feels "this is a request in the Iowa Legislature for God to grant the Muslims victory over every non-muslim. Not a request for salvation." Smith takes it as a gesture not of prayer but more as a political statement, especially with the wars that have been going on in the Middle East.
"I'm not concerned about a Muslim Imam opening the Legislature in prayer but it concerns me with the statements that were made. He interpreted this prayer from his understanding of Islam."

Here is the text of the opening prayer, as transcribed by Radio Iowa:
Imam Muhammad Khan of the Islamic Center of Des Moines spoke first in Arabic.
"I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful," Khan said in English. Khan made no specific mention of the war in Iraq or foreign affairs, but he called God the "master of the day of judgment" and asked for "victory over those who disbelieve."
"As we begin this new year...in a world with trials and tribulations, we ask you to open the hearts of our legislators and policy makers to make the right decisions for the people of Iowa," Khan said. "...We ask that you guide our legislators and give them the wisdom and knowledge to tackle the difficult problems that face us today in order to eliminate the senseless crimes on humanity. Help them, Lord, to solve the complicated problems in the State of Iowa so that we can be a model to the world."
Khan's prayer lasted about four minutes and he closed with a few words for legislators.
"On behalf of the Muslim community of Des Moines and Iowa, I wish you all the success in this year for making the right decisions for us," Khan said. Khan was the guest of State Representative Ako Abdul Samad of Des Moines, who is also a local Muslim leader.
Rev. Smith has urged others who may be concerned to contact their representative.
When asked about the prayer, Senator Steve Kettering replied in an e-mail that he had not heard the prayer, which did not take place in the Senate chambers.
"I cannot tell you what was said. I have received e-mail regarding this, but since it did not occur on the Senate side I do not have much information," Kettering said. " I should point out that the senate had a Catholic priest for their opening."
Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said that he agrees with the concern being shown over the Muslim prayer.
He said that he has registered his concerns with the proper authorities.
As the father of two sons who have fought terrorism in the military, Worthan said the phrases mentioned earlier also jumped out at him and he said he shares concern for the same reasons as the constituents he is hearing from.
25985  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 31, 2008, 12:12:44 AM
http://boards.historychannel.com:80/thread.jspa?threadID=700025864
25986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight on: January 31, 2008, 12:11:47 AM
UK - Teachers not to assume children have hetero parents

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Don't say mum and dad... teachers told not to assume pupils have heterosexual parents

By LAURA CLARK - More by this author » Last updated at 10:48am on 30th January 2008

Teachers should not assume that their pupils have a "mum and dad" under guidance aimed at tackling anti-gay bullying in schools.

It says primary pupils as young as four should be familiarised with the idea of same-sex couples to help combat homophobic attitudes.

Teachers should attempt to avoid assumptions that pupils will have a conventional family background, it urges.

It goes on to suggest the word "parents" may be more appropriate than "mum and dad", particularly in letters and emails to the child's home.

When discussing marriage with secondary pupils, teachers should also educate pupils about civil partnerships and gay adoption rights.

The guidance - produced for the Government by gay rights group Stonewall - will be formally launched today by Schools Secretary Ed Balls.

It states that children who call classmates "gay" should be treated the same as racists as part of a "zero tolerance" crackdown on the use of the word as an insult.

Teachers should avoid telling boys to "be a man" or accuse them of behaving like a "bunch of women".

This sort of rebuke "leads to bullying of those who do not conform to fixed ideas about gender", the guidance states.

At the same time, schools should encourage gay role models among staff, parents and governors. Homosexual staff should be able to discuss their private lives after the consultation with the head teacher.

In advice to gay staff, it states: "School culture and ethos determines how open staff are about their private lives, and you should therefore seek advice and guidance from your head."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families commissioned Stonewall to write the guidance jointly with lobby group Education Action Challenging Homophobia.

It says that pupils aged four to seven should "understand that not all pupils have a mum and a dad" and learn about different family structures. Advice to teachers of 11 to 14-year-olds states: "Schools should make efforts to talk inclusively about same-sex parents, for example, avoid assuming all pupils will have a "mum and dad". "When schools discuss marriage, they may also discuss civil partnership and adoption rights for gay people."

In a section on engaging with parents, it asks schools: "Do you talk about 'parents' instead of assuming all pupils have 'mum or a dad'?" The advice goes on to urge teachers to challenge every derogatory use of the word gay to avert homophobic attitudes. Examples include "those trainers are so gay", "that pencil case is so gay" or "you're such a gay boy".

One primary teacher quoted in the guidance said: "We hear 'gay' as a term of abuse every single day. The children may not know exactly what it means, but they know they are using it as an insult. That's why we need to tackle it at this stage."

Controversy over the semantics of the word erupted two years ago when the BBC ruled that Radio One DJ Chris Moyles was not being offensive to homosexuals by using the word "gay" to mean "rubbish". The advice says: "It is important for all staff to challenge pupils, explaining the consequences of using 'gay' in a derogatory way.

"It might be time-consuming at first, but a consistent 'zero-tolerance' approach to such language is central to achieving progress and an environment in which being gay is not thought of as being inferior."

It adds: "Schools need to make it clear to pupils that homophobic comments are as serious as racist comments, and homophobic incidents are as serious as other forms of bullying."

Teachers should use every curriculum subject to nip discriminatory attitudes in the bud. English lessons for teenagers, for example, could focus on the emotions of the gay Italian soldier Carlo in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The guidance is being published five years after the repeal of Section 28 - the law which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

Ministers promised the move would make no difference to the teaching of homosexual matters but some critics have claimed the gay lobby is having a growing influence on pupils. Next month is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month, where pupils learn about apparently gay figures from history including Leonardo da Vinci, Oscar Wilde and James Dean.

Mr Balls, who will launch the anti-bullying guidance at a Stonewall conference today, said: "I am proud the Government and the department are being robust about this. "It is our view that every school should have a clear policy on tackling all forms of bullying, including homophobic bullying."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1770
25987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 30, 2008, 05:27:19 PM
There is much to strongly dislike about McCain, but at least he is clear that we are in a war and that we need to win it.

Also, I am somewhat heartened by the fact that he has Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp giving him economic advice.

I certainly prefer him to Lady Evita or BO-- and unlike Romney, currently he leads them in the polls.
25988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 30, 2008, 08:08:00 AM
This from the NY Slimes, which often butted heads with Rudy when he was mayor.  Definitely caveat lector!
=============

Perhaps he was living an illusion all along.


Rudolph W. Giuliani’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president took impressive wing last year, as the former mayor wove the pain experienced by his city on Sept. 11, 2001, and his leadership that followed into national celebrity. Like a best-selling author, he basked in praise for his narrative and issued ominous and often-repeated warnings about the terrorist strike next time.

Voters seemed to embrace a man so comfortable wielding power, and his poll numbers edged higher to where he held a broad lead over his opponents last summer. Just three months ago, Anthony V. Carbonetti, Mr. Giuliani’s affable senior policy adviser, surveyed that field and told The New York Observer: “I don’t believe this can be taken from us. Now that I have that locked up, I can go do battle elsewhere.”

In fact, Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was about to begin a free fall so precipitous as to be breathtaking. Mr. Giuliani finished third in the Florida primary on Tuesday night; only a few months earlier, he had talked about the state as his leaping-off point to winning the nomination.

As Mr. Giuliani ponders his political mortality, many advisers and political observers point to the hubris and strategic miscalculations that plagued his campaign. He allowed a tight coterie of New York aides, none with national political experience, to run much of his campaign.

He accumulated a fat war chest — he had $16.6 million on hand at the end of September, more than Mitt Romney ($9.5 million) or Senator John McCain ($3.2 million) — but spent vast sums on direct mail instead of building strong organizations on the ground in South Carolina and New Hampshire.

Indeed, his fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, a state where he was once considered competitive, provided an early indication of his vulnerability.

And, curiously, this man with the pugnacious past declined to toss more than light punches at his Republican opponents.

In interviews Tuesday, even before he gave a concession speech in which he spoke of his campaign in the past tense, Mr. Giuliani described his strategic mistakes, suggesting that his opponents had built up too much momentum in earlier primaries. But this is a rhetorical sleight of hand; he in fact competed hard in New Hampshire, to remarkably poor effect.

Perhaps a simpler dynamic was at work: The more that Republican voters saw of him, the less they wanted to vote for him.

Mr. Giuliani was a temple-throbbing Italian-American New Yorker who ruled a cacophonous city seen as the very definition of liberalism. He was somewhat liberal on social issues — notably immigration and abortion — where Republican candidates are invariably conservative. And he possessed a complicated family life: he has been thrice-married and has two adult children who rarely speak to him. At the beginning of his campaign last spring, he sat for a celebrity photo shoot smooching with his third wife, who snuggled in his lap.

“It bordered on science fiction to think that someone as liberal on as many issues as Rudy Giuliani could become the Republican nominee,” said Nelson Warfield, a Republican consultant who has been a longtime critic of the former mayor. “Rudy didn’t even care enough about conservatives to lie to us. The problem wasn’t the calendar; it was the candidate.”

Several of Mr. Giuliani’s campaign aides acknowledged as much Tuesday. They say he tried to tack right without ever really convincing voters that he had experienced a change of heart. And an adviser who has known Mr. Giuliani since the early 1990s and spoke on condition of anonymity said the mayor’s early poll numbers struck him as ephemeral.

“His numbers were built on name recognition and celebrity,” this adviser said. “He had so many of his old friends around him, sometimes it was like he was running for president of Staten Island.”

In his concession speech Mr. Giuliani acknowledged, jokingly, how out of place he often seemed among conservative Republicans. “We’re a big party and we’re getting bigger,” he said. “I’m even in this party.”

After his third-place finish, Republican officials said Mr. Giuliani was expected to drop out of the race and endorse Mr. McCain, possibly as early as Wednesday.

In the beginning, few cracks were evident in the Giuliani campaign machine. He led the Republican field in polls conducted by The New York Times and CBS News throughout the summer, as his support peaked in August at 38 percent nationally in a four-way fight with Mr. McCain, Mr. Romney and Fred D. Thompson. That put him 20 points ahead of his next closest competitor, Mr. Thompson, who has since dropped out of the race.
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Page 2 of 3)



Mr. Giuliani often played to large crowds in New Hampshire and through the Deep South; everyone seemed to love his tough talk on terrorism. When Mr. McCain’s campaign nearly flat-lined last summer, as he ran low on money, Mr. Giuliani seemed poised to take advantage.


No candidate last summer sent out as many direct-mail appeals in New Hampshire as Mr. Giuliani. Last fall, the campaign also broadcast its first television commercials there, ultimately spending more than $3 million on advertisements, and dispatched Mr. Giuliani there for lots of retail campaigning in a state where voters tend to worry more about taxes and the military than conservative social issues. And he seemed at peace with this choice.

“It is not inconceivable that you could, if you won Florida, turn the whole thing around,” Mr. Giuliani told The Washington Post in late November on a bus trip through New Hampshire. “I’d rather not do it that way. That would create ulcers for my entire staff and for me.”

But Mr. Giuliani’s campaign was stumbling, even if it was not immediately evident. He leaned on friendly executives who would let him speak to employees in company cafeterias. Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain, by contrast, compiled lists of undecided Republican voters and invited them — sometimes weeks in advance — to town-hall-style meetings.

“Rudy Giuliani had a tremendous opportunity in New Hampshire that his campaign never embraced,” said Fergus Cullen, the state Republican chairman. “They vacillated between being half committed and three-quarters committed, and that doesn’t work up here.”

Mr. Giuliani also relied on a New York-style approach to photo-friendly crowds. “Rudy went very heavy on Potemkin Village stops, working what I call ‘hostage audiences,’ “ Mr. Cullen said. “It looked like he was campaigning, but he didn’t know who he was talking to.”

A curious new vulnerability also arose. As mayor, Mr. Giuliani took much joy in crawling through the weeds of policy debate, flashing his issue mastery. But as a presidential candidate, he as often seemed ill at ease.

Mr. Giuliani once embraced gun control, gay rights and abortion rights; he knew that all of these issues would be a tough sell to Republicans. While he never shifted positions as sharply as Mr. Romney — who renounced his former support of abortion and gay rights — he as often occupied a muddled middle ground that pleased no one.

This became most evident in the first Republican debate. Asked about repealing Roe v. Wade, he was equivocal. “It would be O.K. to repeal,” he said. “Or it would be O.K. also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision.”

Later, he said that the decision on abortion should be left to women — but that he would appoint strict constructionist judges of the type who had favored overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Give him credit — he sort of stuck to his positions,” Mr. Warfield said. “It made him a man of principle, but it won’t make him the Republican nominee.”

Storm clouds swept over the Giuliani campaign in October and November. A federal prosecutor indicted his friend and former police commissioner, Bernard B. Kerik. And a report indicated that Mr. Giuliani had spent city money to visit his girlfriend, now his wife, in the Hamptons; the police also provided some security for his new love.

Cause and effect is difficult to chart in a presidential campaign. Mr. Giuliani’s poll numbers did not fall off the table, but the news gave newly wary voters another reason to reconsider him.

By late fall, Mr. Giuliani’s poll numbers were fading in New Hampshire, and he trailed Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain. He began a curious two-step, saying he would compete in but probably not win in New Hampshire.

Weeks earlier, he had executed a similar tactical retreat in South Carolina — he and his campaign strategist, Mike DuHaime, said that they hoped voters would cast ballots for him, but that they did not necessarily expect to win the state.

That was a tough pitch in states where voters pride themselves on being taken seriously by candidates.
===========

“DuHaime comes out and says it’s all about delegates, rather than winning the state,” Mr. Cullen said. “It was amazing. It was the talk of every Dunkin’ Donuts and rotary club.”


By late December, Mr. Giuliani made a fateful decision. He formally abandoned plans to run hard in and perhaps win New Hampshire or Michigan. Instead, he made sporadic appearances in those states and retreated to Florida, where he would make something of a final stand.

This was a deeply controversial move; no one had won an election by essentially skipping the first four or five caucuses and primaries. With this decision, he consigned himself to the media shadows during weeks of intensive coverage. But Mr. DuHaime, who had run President Bush’s effort in the Northeast in a past election, signed off on it, as did Mr. Giuliani’s other top campaign aides.

In the end, Mr. Giuliani and his advisers treated supporters as if they were so many serried lines of troops. If they tell a pollster in November that they are going to vote for you, this indicates they are forever in your camp, their thinking went.

But politics does not march to a military beat; it is a business of shifting loyalties. By Tuesday night, even those voters who rated terrorism as the most important issue were as likely to vote for Mr. Romney or Mr. McCain as for Mr. Giuliani. And those who had voted early for Mr. Giuliani now felt a sense of irrelevance.

“I’ve already voted; I voted for Mr. Giuliani,” David Brown, 70, said in Sun City Center, Fla. “I wish I’d voted for Mr. Romney.”

So Mr. Giuliani confronts the hardest of choices, as he finished far behind two other candidates in a state he had vowed to win. Some of his former aides, particularly those who hail from his days at City Hall, have urged him to slog on to New York, New Jersey and California on Feb. 5.

But there, too, the ground is shifting. Only weeks ago, Mr. DuHaime spoke in a call about the former mayor’s strong lead in those states. “Some of these leads are momentum-proof at this point,” he said.

Mr. Giuliani now trails or is at best tied in polls in all of those states. And soon after that phone call, reporters received a memorable e-mail rebuttal from Mr. Romney’s spokesman, Kevin Madden.

“Mayor Giuliani’s momentum-proof national polling lead, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny all walk into a bar,” it began. “You’re right. None of them exist.”
25989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: January 29, 2008, 01:38:59 PM
GREAT post Doug!

In a closely related vein:

Iran to US and Europe: If you support Israel, we'll kill you

And seize your property.
But remember: their nuke program is peaceful!
"Kayhan Editor Close To Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'America and Its European Supporters Must Know... That the Price of Supporting [Israel] Will Cost Them the Property and Lives of Their Citizens... If the Heads of Some Islamic States Prevent the Muslim Peoples from Attacking the Zionists... They Can Be Toppled,'" from MEMRI (thanks to Sr. Soph):
In a January 26 op-ed in the Iranian daily Kayhan, the paper's editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, who is close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, called on Muslims to unite in a retaliatory attack on American, European, and Israeli "sensitive centers" because of "the war crimes that these countries are committing in the Gaza Strip" and because of their support for Israel. In his op-ed, Shar'iatmadari stressed that American and European civilians must be harmed in these attacks, so as to make the U.S. and the European countries change their policy towards Israel. He further called for harming Israelis worldwide, and explained that Islamic regimes that prevent an Islamic attack on Israel must be toppled, because they are defending the enemy.
Following are excerpts from Sharatmadari's op-ed, which was titled "The Defenders of the Enemy"1)
[...]
"America and its European and Zionist supporters must know that their support for Israel's crimes will cost them very dearly. Once they discern that this support will cost them the property and lives of their citizens, they will doubtless reconsider their support for the savage Zionists... And didn't the Imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] teach that if every Muslim pours out one bucket of water, there will be a flood that will sweep away Israel, and destroy it?
"Every time a movement rises up against the Zionist occupier and acts to liberate its homeland, America and its allies accuse it of terrorism, and every state that supports these movements is punished. Why wouldn't the Muslims act the same way, and attack all the supporters of the Zionists everywhere in the world?
"The prevalent legal doctrine in both the Shi'ite school and the Sunni school is that it is permissible to attack anyone whom the enemy uses as a shield in the war against the enemies of Islam. Therefore, if some heads of Islamic states prevent the Muslim peoples from attacking the Zionists – thus constituting a shield that prevents support to the persecuted people of that region – it permissible to topple these defenders of the enemy."

Posted by Robert at January 28, 2008 6:03 AM
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25990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 28, 2008, 04:15:00 PM
While walking down the street one day a US senator is hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

'Welcome to heaven,' says St. Peter. 'Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you.'

'No problem, just let me in,' says the man.

'Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.'

'Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,' says the senator.

'I'm sorry, but we have our rules.'

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St Peter is waiting for him.

'Now it's time to visit heaven.'

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

'Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.'

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: 'Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.'

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above. The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

'I don't understand,' stammers the senator. 'Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?'

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, 'Yesterday we were campaigning...... Today you voted.'
__________________
25991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 28, 2008, 01:40:36 PM

"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible
hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People
of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced
to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been
distinguished by some token of providential agency."

-- George Washington (First Inaugural Address, 30 April 1789)
============
25992  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Nat Geo Documentary on the Dog Brothers: Fight Club on: January 28, 2008, 01:39:24 PM
URL?
25993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Listening to the Enemy on: January 28, 2008, 12:39:00 PM
Listening to the Enemy
By ROGER PILON
January 28, 2008; Page A15

Today the Senate takes up a bipartisan surveillance authorization measure that's already passed the Intelligence Committee. The clock is ticking. This Friday a temporary law called the Protect America Act will expire. If Congress does not act before then, the president's statutory power to prevent terrorist attacks will be seriously compromised.

This dangerous situation should never have arisen. From the beginning, presidents have exercised their Article II executive power to gather foreign intelligence -- in war and peace alike, without congressional or judicial intrusion. As our principal agent in foreign affairs, the president is constitutionally bound to protect the nation. For that, intelligence is essential.

Intelligence is essential on the domestic side as well, where law enforcement is the president's main function. Yet not until 1967 did the Supreme Court require warrants for electronic surveillance. Congress codified that a year later. But both the court and Congress expressly exempted foreign-intelligence gathering from the warrant requirement.

Unfortunately, the exception was not to last. Following the Vietnam War, Congress increasingly inserted itself into foreign affairs, as with the 1973 War Powers Act. With the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in 1978, Congress began micromanaging foreign intelligence gathering. That produced the "wall" between foreign and domestic intelligence gathering -- with foreign-intelligence agents focused on security, and domestic agents on prosecution and hence on obtaining "admissible" evidence. Neither side talked to the other. Many believe the resulting communications failures played a role in 9/11.

In the aftermath of 9/11, believing FISA to be hopelessly inadequate, President Bush instituted his terrorist surveillance program (TSP) -- but not before advising key members of Congress. Nevertheless, a firestorm ensued when the New York Times made the program public in December 2005. The controversy continued until January 2007, when the White House announced that henceforth it would gather intelligence under FISA's antiquated restrictions.

Cooler heads in Congress grew concerned after Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell testified in July that "we're actually missing a significant portion of [the intelligence] we should be getting." That led to last August's six-month fix, which expires this week.

Obviously, this is no way to conduct the serious business of foreign intelligence. The ever-changing rules -- criminalizing transgressions -- leave officials playing it safe in a world of risks.

The Senate bill would be an improvement, not least because it provides retroactive liability protection for telecom companies that allegedly assisted the government after 9/11. But the deeper problem is the very idea of congressional micromanagement.

The Senate bill would require showing probable cause before targeting even U.S. persons abroad, dramatically increasing the role of the FISA court. As Judge Richard Posner wrote on this page two years ago, FISA may be valuable for monitoring communications of known terrorists, "but it is hopeless as a framework for detecting terrorists. It requires that surveillance be conducted pursuant to warrants based on probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance is a terrorist, when the desperate need is to find out who is a terrorist."

The technical impediments to legislating are even greater. We're long past alligator clips on copper wires. Today, electronic communication is broken into discrete packets that travel along independent routes before being reassembled. As K.A. Taipale, executive director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, has written, "even targeting a specific message from a known sender requires intercepting (i.e., scanning and filtering) the entire communication flow." Yet the Senate bill requires that intelligence analysts count the people in the U.S. whose communications were "reviewed," an all but impossible distraction for analysts already stretched.

Privacy concerns are not trivial. The Constitution protects against "unreasonable" searches. But even with law enforcement, where the main function is ex post prosecution, not ex ante protection, there are numerous exceptions to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. Yet Congress insists still on micromanaging the president -- and he, by failing to assert his authority early on, is now reduced to bargaining with Congress over minutia that will soon be as obsolete and dangerous as the underlying act is today.

John Locke, no sometime civil libertarian, put it well when he observed that the foreign affairs power "is much less capable to be directed by antecedent, standing, positive Laws, than [by] the Executive." The Federalist's authors, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, all agreed. The remedy for executive incompetence or recklessness in foreign affairs is political -- not legislative, much less legal. Congress, to say nothing of the courts, can no more manage such affairs than it can the economy. What better evidence than these surveillance fits and starts?

Mr. Pilon holds the Cato Institute's B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies.
WSJ
25994  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: The Sky is not falling on: January 28, 2008, 10:58:54 AM
Brain Wesbury has an outstanding track record as an economist.  His predictions have an unusually high degree of accuracy.
==============

The Economy Is Fine (Really)
By BRIAN WESBURY
January 28, 2008; Page A15
WSJ

It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.

True, retail sales fell 0.4% in December and fourth-quarter real GDP probably grew at only a 1.5% annual rate. It is also true that in the past six months manufacturing production has been flat, new orders for durable goods have fallen at a 0.8% annual rate, and unemployment blipped up to 5%. Soft data for sure, but nowhere near the end of the world.

 
It is most likely that this recent weakness is a payback for previous strength. Real GDP surged at a 4.9% annual rate in the third quarter, while retail sales jumped 1.1% in November. A one-month drop in retail sales is not unusual. In each of the past five years, retail sales have reported at least three negative months. These declines are part of the normal volatility of the data, caused by wild swings in oil prices, seasonal adjustments, or weather. Over-reacting is a mistake.

A year ago, most economic data looked much worse than they do today. Industrial production fell 1.1% during the six months ending February 2007, while new orders for durable goods fell 3.9% at an annual rate during the six months ending in November 2006. Real GDP grew just 0.6% in the first quarter of 2007 and retail sales fell in January and again in April. But the economy came back and roared in the middle of the year -- real GDP expanded 4.4% at an annual rate between April and September.

With housing so weak, the recent softness in production and durable goods orders is understandable. But housing is now a small share of GDP (4.5%). And it has fallen so much already that it is highly unlikely to drive the economy into recession all by itself. Exports are 12% of the economy, and are growing at a 13.6% rate. The boom in exports is overwhelming the loss from housing.

Personal income is up 6.1% during the year ending in November, while small-business income accelerated in October and November, during the height of the credit crisis. In fact, after subtracting income taxes, rent, mortgages, car leases and loans, debt service on credit cards and property taxes, incomes rose 3.9% faster than inflation in the year through September. Commercial paper issuance is rising again, as are mortgage applications.

Some large companies outside of finance and home building are reporting lower profits, but the over-reaction to very spotty negative news is astounding. For example, Intel's earnings disappointed, creating a great deal of fear about technology. Lost in the pessimism is the fact that 20 out of 24 S&P 500 technology companies that have reported earnings so far have beaten Wall Street estimates.

Models based on recent monetary and tax policy suggest real GDP will grow at a 3% to 3.5% rate in 2008, while the probability of recession this year is 10%. This was true before recent rate cuts and stimulus packages. Now that the Fed has cut interest rates by 175 basis points, the odds of a huge surge in growth later in 2008 have grown. The biggest threat to the economy is still inflation, not recession.

Yet many believe that a recession has already begun because credit markets have seized up. This pessimistic view argues that losses from the subprime arena are the tip of the iceberg. An economic downturn, combined with a weakened financial system, will result in a perfect storm for the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market. It is feared that cascading problems with inter-connected counterparty risk, swaps and excessive leverage will cause the entire "house of cards," otherwise known as the U.S. financial system, to collapse. At a minimum, they fear credit will contract, causing a major economic slowdown.

For many, this catastrophic outlook brings back memories of the Great Depression, when bank failures begot more bank failures, money was scarce, credit was impossible to obtain, and economic problems spread like wildfire.

This outlook is both perplexing and worrisome. Perplexing, because it is hard to see how a campfire of a problem can spread to burn down the entire forest. What Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke recently estimated as a $100 billion loss on subprime loans would represent only 0.1% of the $100 trillion in combined assets of all U.S. households and U.S. non-farm, non-financial corporations. Even if losses ballooned to $300 billion, it would represent less than 0.3% of total U.S. assets.

Beneath every dollar of counterparty risk, and every swap, derivative, or leveraged loan, is a real economic asset. The only way credit troubles could spread to take down the entire system is if the economy completely fell apart. And that only happens when government policy goes wildly off track.

In the Great Depression, the Federal Reserve allowed the money supply to collapse by 25%, which caused a dangerous deflation. In turn, this deflation caused massive bank failures. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, Herbert Hoover's tax hike passed in 1932, and then FDR's alphabet soup of new agencies, regulations and anticapitalist government activity provided the coup de grace. No wonder thousands of banks failed and unemployment ballooned to 20%.

But in the U.S. today, the Federal Reserve is extremely accommodative. Not only is the federal funds rate well below the trend in nominal GDP growth, but real interest rates are low and getting lower. In addition, gold prices have almost quadrupled during the past six years, while the consumer price index rose more than 4% last year.

These monetary conditions are not conducive to a collapse of credit markets and financial institutions. Any financial institution that goes under does so because of its own mistakes, not because money was too tight. Trade protectionism has not become a reality, and while tax hikes have been proposed, Congress has been unable to push one through.

Which brings up an interesting thought: If the U.S. financial system is really as fragile as many people say, why should we go to such lengths to save it? If a $100 billion, or even $300 billion, loss in the subprime loan world can cause the entire system to collapse, maybe we should be working hard to build a better system that is stronger and more reliable.

Pumping massive amounts of liquidity into the economy and pumping up government spending by giving money away through rebates may create more problems than it helps to solve. Kicking the can down the road is not a positive policy.

The irony is almost too much to take. Yesterday everyone was worried about excessive consumer spending, a lack of saving, exploding debt levels, and federal budget deficits. Today, our government is doing just about everything in its power to help consumers borrow more at low rates, while it is running up the budget deficit to get people to spend more. This is the tyranny of the urgent in an election year and it's the development that investors should really worry about. It reads just like the 1970s.

The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch. Initial unemployment claims, a very consistent canary in the coal mine for recessions, are nowhere near a level of concern.

Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm. Warren Buffett, Wilbur Ross and Bank of America are buying, and there is still $1.1 trillion in corporate cash on the books. The bench of potential buyers on the sidelines is deep and strong. Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000. Keep the faith and stay invested. It's a wonderful buying opportunity.

Mr. Wesbury is chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P.
25995  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 28, 2008, 10:43:33 AM
I bet Newt does too.  cheesy
===========

The Clinton Race Gambit
January 28, 2008; Page A14
WSJ
About Bill Clinton, what can you say? Even before the polls closed in South Carolina on Saturday, the former President was diminishing Barack Obama's victory and trying to boost his wife in the next primaries by playing the race card.

Asked by a reporter why it took "two" Clintons to beat Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton replied that "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina" in 1984 and 1988. And he added that both Rev. Jackson and Mr. Obama had run "a good campaign here." Hmmm. The reporter hadn't mentioned Jesse Jackson, but Mr. Clinton somehow felt it apposite to refer to him anyway. He thus associated Mr. Obama's landslide victory with that of a black candidate who never did win the Democratic nomination, much less the Presidency, and who had run overtly as an African-American candidate in contrast to Mr. Obama's explicit campaign theme of transcending race.

 
Anyone who thinks this was accidental has spent too much time with Sid Blumenthal. While Mr. Obama won a respectable 24% of white voters, according to Saturday's exit polls, Mrs. Clinton still won 36% and John Edwards 39% of the white vote. Mr. Obama won 78% of the black vote.

The Clintons are now eager to make Mr. Obama into a Rev. Jackson-style "black candidate" as they contest primaries with a larger share of white and Hispanic voters than there were in South Carolina. The Clintons want to portray Mr. Obama as a candidate with a narrowly racial appeal, both to undermine his larger and inspirational message of "unity," and also to play to whatever doubts still exist about an African-American candidate among Democratic voters.

It's going to be fascinating to see if Democrats and the press let the Clintons get away with this. Imagine if Mitt Romney had made the Jesse Jackson comparison. Democrats would have immediately denounced the remarks as "racist," or as a part of some Republican "Southern strategy."

This primary contest has been a rolling revelation for many Democrats and the media, as they've been shocked to see the Clinton brand of divisive politics played against one of their own. Liberal columnists who long idolized the Clintons are even writing more-in-sorrow-than-anger pieces asking how Bill and Hillary could descend to such deceptive tactics. Allow us to answer that lament this way: Our readers aren't surprised.
25996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: January 27, 2008, 10:02:15 PM
I know the conventional wisdom is that the Reps will lose, but the Dems have a lot of weak chinks in their armor that the Reps will hit only after the candidates are nominated.  Until then, the Dems are flower in a hot house of Democrat activists, Moveon.org, George Soros $ and others of such ilk.

25997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Cleaning up skunk smell on: January 27, 2008, 04:40:06 PM
A dog's run-in with a skunk sends his owner scrambling for cleaning ideas. He ultimately finds an easy solution.
By David Colker,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
January 27, 2008
Work stinks.

I'm not talking about my job, which I love. Honest.

No, it was a certain emanation noticed by a colleague who innocently approached my desk and asked, "Has there been a skunk back here?"

Early that morning my ever-curious dog, Earl, had gotten sprayed by a skunk in the backyard. Before I could catch him, he sped back into the house through his doggy door, frantically rubbing against everything in sight, starting with the bed.

It was like a Pepe Le Pew cartoon with Smell-O-Vision.

As much as I tried to clean the smell, starting by giving Earl a bath, my olfactory nerves were so overcome that I missed items. Like my sweater, which I had brought into the office that morning. Even my hands carried the stench, though I had washed them repeatedly.

And so began my quest to eradicate skunk spray from dog, furniture, clothes and body. You'd think there'd be solid information on how this can be done, but the Internet and the friendly advice of friends -- all of whom stood at a distance -- were full of misconceptions.

There are remedies, however, based in science. One was even featured in a chemistry journal.

It would be wise to heed them. They probably will be needed more often as we continue to encroach on natural habitats.

Veterinarian Sylvia Domotor, whose office is in Monrovia in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, said skunks had found a highly agreeable habitat in suburbia.

"They're very adaptable to living in communities," said Domotor, who has practiced in San Gabriel Valley communities for more than 20 years. "They're small, nocturnal. They use sewers as highways, and bushy backyards are perfect for them."

Also, residential communities partly shield them from two of their natural enemies: coyotes and bears.

"In this area," Domotor said, "skunks are not even what I consider to be mountain animals anymore."

Earl and I just wanted our house back. And as for my career and social life, essence of Pepe wasn't likely to be a boon to either.

Luckily, an unassuming engineer in the Midwest hit upon the prime solution to skunk smell several years ago when he wasn't even trying.

"I was working on a project that produced hydrogen sulfide gas as a byproduct," said materials engineer Paul Krebaum in Lisle, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. "The gas vented up and then came back into the building through the air-conditioner intakes."

This didn't make him popular with others in the building.

"The gas," he said, "had your basic rotten-egg, sewer-gas odor."

Krebaum mixed a compound that neutralized the odor. It was placed in filters in the venting system, and the complaints stopped.

The project he was working on never made it to market. But in 1993, a colleague mentioned that the family pet had gotten sprayed by a skunk.

------------

Page 2 of 2  << back     1 2     


The common wisdom was to use commercially available, often expensive, concoctions with marginal results or a home remedy such as tomato juice that merely masked the smell for a while.

"All you ended up with was a pink dog and a pink bathroom," Krebaum said.

He figured that a weakened version of the solution he used to deal with the gas, which was a cousin to the skunk smell, might work.

Not only did it work, but the ingredients also were available in most supermarkets.

Krebaum, 47, has modified the pet version over the years. Here's the current formula:

Mix together a quart of hydrogen peroxide (3% strength), a quarter cup of baking soda and 1 or 2 teaspoons of liquid soap. Many brands will do, but Krebaum said Softsoap and Ivory Liquid worked particularly well.

Wearing latex gloves to protect your hands, massage the solution into the fur, being careful not to let it drip into the pet's eyes. Let it sit for about five minutes and then rinse with warm water.

That's it. The skunk smell should be completely or almost gone. The process can be repeated if the smell is still prominent.

The process works by breaking down skunk spray, which is composed mostly of highly pungent compounds called thiols. Spoiled food and rotten eggs also contain the highly nose-sensitive thiols. The end product of that chemical process is a sodium salt.

Krebaum said the mixture was safe for dogs and cats if used carefully.

"The stuff that people put on their hair to bleach it is far stronger," he said. "The worst that could happen with a pet, I figured, is that it would come out a shade lighter."

He gave out the formula to those who needed it and considered making it as a commercial product. The main problem was that the solution, as formulated, had to be mixed just before being applied or it would lose its effectiveness. Worse, it produces a gas that could make a closed container explode on a shelf.

He figured out how to possibly get around these problems but still wasn't enthusiastic.

"The people I was working for at the time weren't interested in this kind of product," Krebaum said. "And I already get paid well as an engineer. So I thought, 'Why not just give it away?' "

He published the formula in Chemical and Engineering News in 1993 and later exposed it to a huge audience when he put it on the Web at home.earthlink.net/~skunkremedy/home.

Earl is a smallish mutt of about 20 pounds, but I mixed up a double batch that evening to make sure I could get the solution deep into his fur.

I put him in the bathtub and the process began. Although Earl looked at me with those what-did-I-do-wrong eyes, he didn't squirm much as I applied the mixture. For the area near his eyes, I used an old washcloth.

I let a bit of the solution wash over my hands too, then rinsed us both with tepid tap water.

As I dried Earl and wrapped him in clean towels, there was none of the stench that had packed such a wallop.

Then came loads of laundry that included everything he had touched, including old sheets used to cover the furniture during the day.

I added to each load a scoop of OxiClean stain remover -- more of Krebaum's advice. "It basically uses a hydrogen peroxide-like compound," he said. Everything came out smelling fresh.

By 2:30 a.m., I got to bed, with a fluffy, sweet-smelling, slightly lighter-in-color Earl curled up beside me.



25998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Hariri Investigantion whithers on: January 27, 2008, 07:41:23 AM
Closely related to the preceding post:


WSJ
Detlev Mehlis
Justice for Lebanon
By MICHAEL YOUNG
January 26, 2008; Page A11

Berlin

Detlev Mehlis speaks slowly. So when he says, "I haven't seen a word in his reports during the past two years confirming that he has moved forward," there is time for the meaning to sink in.

The person Mr. Mehlis is referring to is Serge Brammertz, a Belgian prosecutor who, until a few weeks ago, headed the United Nations investigation looking into the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. In December of that year, Mr. Brammertz succeeded Mr. Mehlis as commissioner of the investigating team, known as the International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC). Now, Mr. Mehlis is making the rather serious charge that Mr. Brammertz may not have done much while working on the Hariri case.

On Feb. 14 it will be exactly three years since Hariri was killed in a massive bomb explosion, with 21 others, in Beirut. The event sparked weeks of protests directed against Syria -- which most Lebanese blamed for the killing -- demanding an end to its 29-year military presence in Lebanon.

 
The so-called "Cedar Revolution" led to a transformation of the political system when Syria withdrew its army, and its adversaries won a majority of seats in Parliament in subsequent elections. Since then, Damascus has tried to reassert its power in Lebanon -- but the Hariri investigation, if it points an accusatory finger at Syria, is its Achilles heel.

The Security Council has established a Lebanese-international tribunal under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter to try the suspects. The tribunal, now being set up in The Hague, is an exceptional creation, much like UNIIIC was. This week a U.N. official revealed that judges had been selected. Never before has the Security Council overseen a political murder investigation.

With Mr. Brammertz having recently left Lebanon to take charge of a special tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Mr. Mehlis has decided to speak up. It is a rare occasion that he has agreed to do so on the record -- and one of the last, he insists. As a senior prosecutor at the Superior Prosecutor's Office in Berlin, he is keen to close his own personal file on the UNIIIC years, but also to warn that the vitality of the Hariri inquiry may be disappearing. "A new commissioner has been installed. So it's a good time for a very last summing up on my part," Mr. Mehlis says.

Whether UNIIIC was exceptional or not, Mr. Mehlis made it a point of appearing an unexceptional man while commissioner -- but one with pit-bull persistence. He'd shown that persistence before. It took him nine years to bring convictions for the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle discotheque in Berlin. He accused Libyan officials of being behind the attack. That experience, he says, left him with the view "that justice prevails, but you have to have patience."

But Mr. Mehlis is plainly worried that justice might not prevail in the Hariri investigation. It "appears to have lost the momentum it had until January 2006," he says. "When I left we were ready to name suspects, but it seems not to have progressed from that stage."

Indeed, Mr. Brammertz never named new suspects in his investigation, though he did mention he'd identified "persons of interest." Mr. Mehlis is dismissive: "If you have suspects you don't allow them to roam free for years to tamper with evidence."

Particularly odd to Mr. Mehlis is that his successor reopened analysis of the crime scene upon arriving in Lebanon. That not only cast doubt on the German's methods, it wasted valuable time. Mr. Brammertz's conclusions ended up confirming those of Mr. Mehlis, namely that Hariri had been killed by an above-ground explosion.

But Mr. Mehlis sees such behavior as emblematic of a broader problem -- namely that UNIIIC has told us little we didn't already know before Mr. Brammertz became its commissioner: that Hariri was killed for political reasons and that there were several layers of participation in the conspiracy. "We needed two years of investigative endeavor to discover this?" he laughs.

When Mr. Mehlis first arrived in Beirut, he visited the families of three of the victims in the Hariri blast and frequently talked to the media. Mr. Brammertz, in contrast, gave no interviews and never once addressed the Lebanese on what the case personally meant to him.

But what if Mr. Brammertz did not reveal his cards for tactical reasons? After all, he asked to maintain the secrecy of his investigation. Mr. Mehlis responds that to him, as a German, the notion of a secret investigation sounds ominous. "The Lebanese public has to be informed, even if there are setbacks in the investigation. In a democracy people have the right to know, particularly when a prime minister was murdered and people don't trust the authorities. This was an opportunity to restore credibility to the justice system."

Mr. Mehlis also sees a practical rationale for more openness by an investigator: "To have the support of the public, to encourage witnesses to come forward with information, and for governments to send specialized investigators, you need to give them an idea of what you are doing."

The Hariri investigation was always seen by its defenders as a lever to render political assassination in the Middle East more difficult. In Lebanon particularly, where dozens of leading politicians and officials have been killed since the 1970s (the latest a police intelligence officer on Friday, among whose duties was reportedly following the Hariri affair), this was the one crime, people felt, that international attention would not allow to go unpunished.

Lebanese optimism aside, the point was a valid one: Respect for the rule of law, so lacking in Arab societies, could only benefit from a successful legal process to punish the guilty. That rationale remains persuasive today, as more and more people in the West doubt that Arab societies can be democratic. The Hariri investigation was there to say that democracy without law is a chimera.

His actions as UNIIIC commissioner left few doubts as to who Mr. Mehlis thought was behind the crime. He asked the Lebanese authorities to arrest four prominent pro-Syrian generals from Lebanon's security services and Presidential Guard. He took affidavits from Syrian officials, including intelligence officers. He even sought to question Syria's president, Bashar Assad.

Mr. Mehlis departed before this could go through, and he doesn't know what later happened. Media reports suggested that Mr. Brammertz held "a meeting" with the Syrian leader, but that is legally different, Mr. Mehlis explains, than a formal judicial interview, which even Lebanon's former president submitted to.

I remind him that two of his key Syrian witnesses did not seem particularly reliable. One told a press conference in Damascus that his testimony was fraudulent; another, a former intelligence officer, later became a suspect in Hariri's murder at Mr. Mehlis's request, and has made contradictory statements.

Mr. Mehlis responds that in such crimes you cannot be choosy about who to deal with. "What do you expect, white angels? Those two gave us a lot of information, which we could sometimes corroborate with information received elsewhere. In the end, the tribunal will determine their credibility, and ask why they agreed to sign their statements." Mr. Mehlis adds: "Maybe the witnesses were there to discredit the investigation, but that can help us determine who wants to discredit the investigation."

I put it to Mr. Mehlis that, whatever the UNIIIC discovers, there is palpable international reluctance to carry the Hariri case to its conclusion. Few at the U.N., for example, are eager to destabilize Syria's regime, assuming its involvement is proven.

His answer is ambiguous: "As a prosecutor you can't prosecute governments and countries; you prosecute individuals. When I headed UNIIIC, there was a will to get to the bottom of the crime -- shown in all the Security Council resolutions on the matter. Why not now? One of the most helpful [member nations] was Russia, which persuaded Syria to comply with the resolutions. Even with states having different interests, common understandings can be reached."

So what about today? "Traditionally, there is tension between politics and justice and I accepted that [former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi] Annan did not want more problems because of the Hariri case. Yet he was always very supportive of my work and well-being. The U.N. did not interfere in my efforts and had no leverage over me, as I was not after a position in the organization. Even had the U.N. tried, there were investigators from 17 countries who might have thought differently, making this impossible."

Mr. Mehlis doesn't so much fear a cover-up as that the Hariri case will stall. The tribunal, he predicts, will be set up this summer, but "people should not expect a trial within the next two to three years, unless the investigation regains momentum." Otherwise, what might happen? "I fear that suspects will end up in a judicial no-man's land, with Lebanon claiming they are under the U.N.'s jurisdiction, and the U.N. saying that they must remain under Lebanese jurisdiction."

What Mr. Mehlis is saying, in so many words, is that a tribunal does not a trial make. The tribunal will be formed and judges nominated, but unless the prosecutor has something solid to take to court, the process may lead nowhere. Still, he is mildly optimistic: "Definitely, no one can abolish this tribunal. I may not be happy about the time frame, but am deeply convinced the case can be solved and will be solved."

Mr. Mehlis also cautions that the U.N. would suffer from failure in the Hariri affair. "The U.N.'s image is at stake, particularly in Lebanon, where people put high hopes, perhaps too high, in the Hariri investigation."

So, what is his advice to Daniel Bellemare, Mr. Brammertz's Canadian successor? "Concentrate on the Hariri case itself; don't try to write a history book. Focus on the whos, hows and whys of the crime. Analysis can never replace solid investigative police work."

Most important, Mr. Mehlis says the Hariri case must remain in the public's consciousness. "For years the LaBelle case dragged on with small successes and failures, but it was always kept alive on the prosecution's side by my working to inform the media; and on the victims' side because their families created pressure groups. I feel that in the Lebanese case, the families of the deceased can certainly play a much more active role."

That may be true, but victims or their families rarely have a voice in the Arab world. The fate of the Hariri tribunal will help determine if that changes. Beyond the assassination of a high-profile politician, the question is whether the international community finally agrees that things need to be different in the Middle East, or just goes back to accepting the old ways.

Mr. Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and a contributing editor at Reason magazine.
25999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ criticizes Fed/Bernanke on: January 27, 2008, 07:38:42 AM
A Global Fed
January 26, 2008; Page A10
This week the world learned that economic "decoupling" from America is a myth. The next lesson to re-learn is that the Federal Reserve's monetary mistakes have global consequences, and that one result of the Fed's great dollar miscalculation this decade has been a dangerous breakdown in world monetary cooperation.

Look no further than the European Central Bank, which was notably absent when the Fed made its emergency rate cut amid falling global stocks on Tuesday. In testimony Wednesday before the European Parliament, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet came about as close as a member of the brotherhood ever will to calling out a fellow central banker: "In demanding times of significant market correction and turbulences, it is the responsibility of the central bank to solidly anchor inflation expectations to avoid additional volatility in already highly volatile markets."

If we can interpret Mr. Trichet further, he thinks the Fed helped to create the current financial mess by going on a bender in the late Alan Greenspan era, and is now once again running dangerous inflation risks by cutting rates too soon in the face of Wall Street pressure. He's also unhappy because the dollar's fall against the euro has increased political pressure on the ECB to ease as well. So now that the Fed wants his help to avoid a further dollar decline against the euro, he's in no mood to oblige.

Mr. Trichet has a point about American mistakes, and for that matter so do all the Davos-types chortling this week about U.S. credit woes. Europeans and many Asians love to see the Yanks humbled, and the sight of America's banking giants going hat in hand to Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China is too much Schadenfreude to pass up. One irony is that the cause of all this Yankee humiliation isn't the familiar Euro-gripe about the "trade deficit" or tax cuts. It is monetary policy. But they'll enjoy it whatever the cause.

They shouldn't get carried away, however, because their own stock markets were showing earlier this week what could happen to European and Asian economies if the U.S. heads into recession. The $7 billion fraud at Société Générale and the mess at Britain's Northern Rock mortgage lender also make clear that American bankers don't have a monopoly on bad judgment. The currency reserves and sovereign wealth funds that many countries have been piling up are in substantial part the result of that same Fed mistake. This means they can vanish as fast as they arose if commodity prices fall again and the dollar rises. Recall the Texas oil patch, circa 1983, as Paul Volcker's Fed corrected the inflation of the 1970s.

Mr. Trichet also has an advantage over Fed chairman Ben Bernanke in that his mandate under the ECB constitution is to focus solely on the price level. Under Humphrey-Hawkins, the Fed must target the price level and employment. Mr. Trichet is right to keep his own eye on a stable euro, but we also wish he and the Fed weren't so obvious about their mutual discord.

The other great casualty of the Fed's blunder has been the global dollar bloc. This had been building for years, as more nations adopted either formal (such as a currency board) or informal dollar links to their currencies. A stable exchange rate creates economic and trading efficiencies, while a formal dollar link means a country can reduce political uncertainty by delegating its own monetary policies to the Fed.

This made sense as long as the dollar's value was stable. But as the dollar has fallen, these countries have imported inflation and some are now severing their dollar links. The Gulf Cooperation Council is mulling a link to a euro-dominated basket of currencies, and even China is slowly revaluing the yuan against the dollar -- less because of U.S. political pressure than out of its own self-interest to control internal inflation.

This world of greater exchange-rate volatility is dangerous. The extreme movements of the euro versus the dollar across the last decade have created enormous uncertainty for business, while distorting trade and investment flows. They also contribute to economic anxiety and a populist trade backlash. The collapse of the dollar bloc, if it continues, will add to this exchange-rate volatility and in the worst case make it easier for beggar-thy-neighbor currency manipulation.

This week showed once again that the world needs more monetary cooperation, not less. As the world's most important central bank, the Fed must take the lead. And the way to start is by sending a message that its monetary decisions will be based on a renewed determination to protect the value of the dollar and its role as a reserve currency.
26000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shorting the Surge on: January 27, 2008, 07:35:01 AM
Don't Short-Circuit the Surge
By KIMBERLY KAGAN
January 26, 2008; Page A11

The Iraq debate in 2007 focused on whether the new strategy and troop increase could stem violence in Iraq. It did. The Iraq debate in 2008 will probably focus on how much the United States can reduce force levels in Iraq this year in the wake of its success.

Many in these discussions give troop numbers and brigade counts almost casually, without ever explaining how they derive the figures. That's a problem. Any realistic evaluation suggests that returning to pre-surge levels by July 2008, as some are suggesting, carries considerable risk.

Ethno-sectarian attacks and deaths in Baghdad security districts decreased more than 90% from January to December 2007. Iraqi civilian casualties have dropped 75% from their peak, and the number of IED attacks has fallen to the lowest level since October 2004. One brigade of U.S. troops returned home in December without replacement. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates believes that Gen. David Petraeus will recommend continuing the drawdown to 15 brigades.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, CENTCOM commander Adm. William Fallon, and Gen. Petraeus are now assessing whether to recommend in March a further reduction in troop levels later in 2008. Mr. Gates stated recently that he hopes conditions will permit the U.S. to reduce its combat forces in Iraq by a brigade a month from August to December 2008, leaving a footprint of 10 brigades at the end of the president's term -- the lowest American force level in the country since the 2003 invasion.

In contrast, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, who commands combat forces for Gen. Petraeus, has stated that he is uncomfortable committing to any further reductions below 15 brigades before commanders can assess the effect of the decrease to that force-size. Gen. Petraeus recently said that March 2008 might be too soon to make that determination. War critics have insisted on reductions to 100,000 troops or fewer.

The brigade combat team, commanded by a colonel and consisting of around 3,500 soldiers (5,000 or so counting the support elements that normally deploy with it) is the building block of the U. S. Army (its equivalent, the Regimental Combat Team, is the building block of the Marine Corps). There are currently 42 BCTs in the active force. Those who speak of an absolute number of troops that they desire in Iraq show their ignorance of the military planning process.

American brigades in Iraq oversee combat, training, and governance missions in their sector, whether a quadrant of Baghdad or an entire outlying province. Each brigade oversees an area with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants. Brigades plan and execute military operations that prevent extremists from returning to cleared areas. They also gather intelligence about enemy groups in their areas of operations, and thus determine where new threats are emerging.

Since the end of 2006, brigades have overseen the Military Transition Teams that train and advise the Iraqi security forces operating in their area, dramatically improving the coordination of Iraqi and American forces. Now, most American brigade headquarters are partnered with an Iraqi division headquarters, helping the Iraqis to plan and sustain increasingly complex operations.

Since spring 2007, the brigades have housed the Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams that have jumpstarted local and provincial Iraqi government. The brigade helps these teams move through the area. The brigades have been instrumental in the Iraqi population's rejection of al Qaeda. Brigade commanders and their staffs and subordinates have negotiated ceasefires with leaders of tribes, villages and urban neighborhoods; identified Concerned Local Citizens; and integrated these Iraqi civilians with the Iraqi Security Forces. Brigade commanders in 2008 may distribute their own troops between combat and training missions, rather than relying on a centrally-directed policy untailored to local circumstances.

The brigade has thus become much more than a fighting unit. The development of the Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi civilian institutions, which has been a hallmark of Gen. Petraeus's counterinsurgency strategy and a pillar of its success in 2007, rests upon the American brigade headquarters. Maintaining security essential to drawing down the American force levels requires the presence in Iraq of enough brigade headquarters to conduct the combat, training and governance missions essential to success.

The way to determine the number of brigade headquarters suitable for Iraq is by determining the number of brigade-sized missions in the country. This is a challenging but not insuperable task.

There were too few brigades in 2006 to monitor the enemy and oversee the new government institutions in poor security situations. There were enough brigades by mid- 2007 to perform those tasks, although not equally in all areas. The "surge" was never intended to secure all of Iraq -- only to stabilize Baghdad and Anbar. Its unexpected success has also placed unanticipated strains on U.S. forces. We won more than we had hoped, and now we may need to defend it more than we had planned.

The "surge" posture from June through December 2007 included five BCTs in Baghdad; four in the southern "belt" (from Mahmudiyah on the Euphrates to Nahrawan east of the capital); three in Anbar (including 2 Marine Regiments); four in the northern belt (Taji; Tarmiyah; and Diyala, where a Quick Reaction Force spent much of the summer along with the dedicated brigade); and one each in Salah-ad-Din, Kirkuk, Ninevah, and on convoy protection duty.

Gen. Odierno recently shifted two brigades within Iraq to conduct his third major offensive against al Qaeda, Operation Phantom Phoenix, to disrupt and pursue the enemy in northern Iraq. The December reduction to 19 BCTs has left only one brigade headquarters in Diyala. General Odierno intends to thin the headquarters and the troops on the ground in Anbar and Baghdad in order to achieve the remaining four-brigade reduction back to pre-surge levels by July.

The decision to draw down the surge is predicated not only on current security gains, but on the assumption that security will continue to improve in areas where the reductions are programmed to occur. Gen. Petraeus, testifying before Congress in September, attributed the downturn in violence, then 12 weeks old, to three factors: the summer offensives against al Qaeda and militias, the Iraqi population's rejection of extremists, and the slowly increasing capabilities of the Iraqi security forces.

"Based on all this and the further progress we believe we can achieve over the next few months, I believe that we will be able to reduce our forces to the pre-surge level of brigade combat teams by next summer, withdrawing one quarter of our combat brigades by that time without jeopardizing the security gains that we have fought so hard to achieve." Gen. Odierno confirmed in a November press conference that he had recommended that Gen. Petraeus reduce the force to 15 brigades by July, "because I believe that we will be able to continue to move forward with the progress."

Achieving the complement of 15 brigades by summer rests upon Gen. Odierno's judgment that he can withdraw not only the headquarters from Diyala, but also others from Anbar and parts of Baghdad this spring. His assumption is that security will continue to improve at about the rate our commanders think is feasible between now and July, and that the Iraqi Army will grow as predicted.

There is considerable risk in this assumption. Coalition and Iraqi forces have not finished clearing Ninevah province, Salah ad-Din and parts of Babil. Major operations continue against al Qaeda remnants in Ninevah, Salah-ad-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Wasit provinces. Fighting between Iraqi Security Forces (aided by coalition special forces and our Georgian, Polish and British allies) and Mahdi Army militias continues in the south.

The withdrawal to 15 brigades already assumes that these operations will be successful. It provides no cushion for unexpected developments or unforeseen enemy responses. There is thus no military basis at all at the present time to recommend additional reductions in 2008.

One year ago, Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress: "I was assured . . . by the secretary of Defense . . . that if we need additional assets, my job is to ask for them. If they're not provided in some case, my job is to tell my boss the risk involved in accomplishing the mission without the assets that are required. And at some point, of course, you may have to go back and say that you cannot accomplish the mission because of the assets that have not been provided."

By the best estimates now available, 15 brigades is the absolute minimum force required to accomplish the mission that has brought us success in 2007. Any further reductions -- even by a single brigade -- may make that mission impossible.

Ms. Kagan is an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies and the president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
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